Drugs gang sentenced

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The Independent Online

Ten members of a global crack cocaine smuggling network known as the 'bling bling gang' because of their love of the high life were jailed for terms ranging from five to 27 years today.

Detectives believe their vast empire was responsible for smuggling almost £50 million worth of cocaine into the country and then producing crack worth six times that amount in just two years.

Members used the huge proceeds to fund lavish lifestyles, spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on luxury home furnishings, jewellery and designer clothes, London's Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.

The majority of the gang's main players in the UK were illegal overstayers - one had even been here for nine years. Some were already dangerous criminals, wanted for offences overseas.

It was one of the biggest crack cocaine smuggling networks ever to operate in Britain and it spanned several countries, with as many as 51 members based in the world's most fashionable cities: London, Paris and New York.

In addition to those jailed in Britain, 25 have been imprisoned in France and 10 in the United States for involvement in what senior Scotland Yard officers have described as a "sophisticated global conspiracy".

The ruthless gang, Judge Timothy King said, was motivated by "greed". It smuggled cocaine paste and cocaine liquid from the Caribbean into the US, Canada, Europe and, in particular, London, where it was turned into crack and distributed to other UK cities.