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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders