Ex-public schoolboy who supplied City with cocaine jailed

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The Independent Online

A gang headed by a former public schoolboy was jailed for a total of 36 years yesterday for running a £7m-a-year drugs network supplying celebrities, City workers and the music industry with cocaine.

The four-man team, which included a former merchant banker, a record producer and a pianist, is thought to have netted as much as £50m from the drug dealing.

Police said that the privileged background of the gang members led them to feel as if they were untouchable. They ran their drugs racket like a slick business, keeping computer records of their clients and their drugs of choice, Southwark Crown Court in London heard.

In one 13-month period they bought in £7.6m worth of cocaine, which they sold on for a huge profit. They also sold 511,740 ecstasy tablets and made £1,245 from cannabis resin and £950 from herbal cannabis.

Detectives will now try to confiscate the gang's profits. They have identified £4.5m in assets but believe further fortunes could be stashed in overseas bank accounts in Spain and Switzerland.

It is believed the gang's activities may have stretched back up to nine years and funded lavish lifestyles. They owned a string of properties, expensive cars and antiques and took luxury holidays.

The ringleader, Julian de Vere Whiteway-Wilkinson, spent £5,000 on champagne after attending a wine-tasting course in France last year, while police found £1,000 in notes on the floor in the flat of another gang member, James Long. He was believed to find coins vulgar.

Whiteway-Wilkinson, 32, a former public schoolboy, was sentenced to 12 years in jail. The court heard he was a trained pilot who drove a BMW coupé and enjoyed lavish holidays.

He was so sure that he would never be caught that he made videos of guests snorting cocaine. Police also seized videos that revealed scenes of drug-taking and sex. On one, Whiteway-Wilkinson was seen bragging about laundering his money in Geneva.

Long, 31, a former merchant banker whom Whiteway-Wilkinson met at Blundell's public school in Devon, was jailed for nine years. Long developed a cocaine addiction when he joined his school-friend to sell drugs from the gang leader's home in Hoxton, east London. When they were arrested the police found £200,000 in cash.

Milroy Nadarajah, 33, a record producer who owned a studio where Kylie Minogue once recorded, received seven years. Nadarajah is believed to have turned to drug-dealing when his music career started to fail. He lived in a £1.2m house and drove a Porsche.

Francis Sheridan, appearing for the prosecution, said: "His home was more akin to Footballers' Wives than an ordinary citizen. It was palatial to say the least."

The fourth gang member, Tom Connell, 30, a jazz pianist, received eight years. All four had pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to supply cocaine.

On sentencing, Judge Rodney McKinnon told Long: "You come from a caring family, had a very good education and a good job in the City. You started to take cocaine and built enormous debts. To pay off these debts you joined this organisation."

The judge added that he had taken into account many references from friends and family. "What you became involved in came as a great shock to them."

He told Whiteway-Wilkinson, the son of the antiques dealer and property developer Juan de Vere Whiteway-Wilkinson, that if he had not pleaded guilty he would have faced a sentence of up to 20 years.

"It is quite apparent that your involvement was at a very high level. You were buying direct from suppliers and wholesaling drugs," the judge said.

Connell, dressed in a blue pin-striped suit, blew a kiss to his family as he was led from the dock. Judge McKinnon told him: "You were recruited to deliver drugs over a nine-month period. You were therefore an important part of the drug network. There is no doubt you are a talented musician but you knew what was going on when you agreed to make the deliveries."

Turning to Nadarajah, he said: "The role you played was a serious one." But he added that there was no evidence Nadarajah had any involvement other than delivering 15kg of cocaine on the day he was caught, an errand for which he was to be paid £5,000.

The gang's operations were centred around business units in a former brewery in Brick Lane, east London, where they rented space under different company names, including JK Media.

In September last year Nadarajah and Long were caught carrying three boxes full of cocaine into one of the units and arrested. The cocaine was 77 per cent pure - enough to kill a user - and was being cut at Brick Lane before distribution around London and across the country.

After the case, Detective Sergeant Mark Chapman said: "We are talking about millions of pounds, a lot of expensive property, cars and jewellery."