Drugs smuggler ordered to pay £2.6m

 

A drugs gang "Mr Big" who smuggled £25 million of cannabis into the UK from Holland in lorry loads of flowers has been ordered to pay £2.6 million.

David Barnes, 42, who is serving a 12-year jail term for plotting to supply cannabis, has six months to pay up or face an extra eight years' imprisonment.

The smuggler, who led a lavish lifestyle funded by importing thousands of kilos of cannabis from Europe, had claimed that he had made just £50,000 net profit from the operation he headed.

Bristol Crown Court heard that between January and April 2009, Barnes and his gang imported 9,647kg (21,268lb) of cannabis with a wholesale value of £26.5 million - and a street value of £100 million.

The prosecution maintained that Barnes had made a minimum net personal profit of £275 per kilo - a total of £2.6 million - which was salted away overseas to Pakistan, Quebec and Dubai.

However, Barnes claimed during the Proceeds of Crime Act hearing that his cut from the operation was just £10 per kilo.

Barnes, from Hungerford, Berkshire, said that he received £90,000 but about half went in expenses and he was left with just £50,000.

Rejecting Barnes's claim, Judge Jamie Tabor QC said: "In relation to Mr Barnes it is agreed that the benefit figure as defined by the Proceeds of Crime Act is £26 million.

"The Crown suggests that Mr Barnes has salted away the profits that he has made from the enterprise.

"I suspect that the profit made was substantially more than that suggested by the prosecution.

"Nevertheless, if the prosecution is correct, Mr Barnes made a minimum net profit of £2,652,925.

"I am quite satisfied that Mr Barnes was the principal mover in this conspiracy in the UK.

"Regrettably he has lied to the court yet again. As I said earlier I believe the prosecution formulation to be overgenerous, however, I am prepared to accept it.

"Mr Barnes' net profit was £2,652,925. At least this figure has been hidden and probably spirited out of the country."

Barnes's co-accused, "first lieutenant" Michael Woodage, 52, from Whitchurch, Hampshire, was ordered to pay £80,000 within six months or face an additional 21 months' imprisonment on top the eight year sentence he is already serving.

The two defendants and six other members of the gang were all jailed in July 2010.

During the trial jurors heard that almost 10 tonnes of skunk cannabis was found at a farm in Wanborough, near Swindon, but detailed records showed that much more had passed through.

The gang had smuggled the cannabis into the UK among shipments of flowers - such as tulips and chrysanthemums - from Holland.

The discovery led police to secure buildings on Poplar Farm, Wanborough, which was leased by Barnes.

Officers found hi-tech security systems, forklift trucks, shrink wrapping and other drug-related equipment.

A further raid at an industrial unit leased by Woodage near Hungerford unearthed equipment linked with a drugs distribution centre.

Detectives said they believed the gang transferred millions of pounds they netted for the drugs out of Britain.

They said cash was taken from Swindon back down the M4 to London, then wired to cash bureaux in Afghanistan, Dubai and Pakistan where the money trail ran cold for police.

Detectives discovered that Barnes made trips to Canada, Dubai and Pakistan in the months leading up to the drugs bust.

The court heard today that Barnes's wife Paula, 43, has no assets and is believed to be abroad on the run from police following a fatal car crash in September 2010.

She was released on bail to appear in court last April to face a charge of causing the death of primary school teacher Diane Wright by dangerous driving but failed to attend.

Detective Sergeant Bob Cooper, from Wiltshire Police, described Barnes's empire as one of the biggest in the UK.

"In my experience I would rate it as one of the biggest drug importation operations in the UK," he said.

"The order for £2.6 million is a fair reflection of the degree of criminality that David Barnes was involved in.

"David Barnes lived a 'cash-lease' lifestyle and as such we didn't find any of the trappings of his lifestyle.

"Our case is that he squirrelled away his money and, even though we cannot find the money, the judge has accepted that it does exist.

"We believe he used corrupt money transfer buries to move his cash to Dubai, Pakistan and Quebec and then onwards, which makes it very difficult to track it down."

Mr Cooper sent a warning to those involved in the drugs trade.

"This case shows that, if we can prove people make money from drug supply - whatever their level - they run the risk of losing the roof over their head, the car they drive and their money in the bank."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen