Liverpool's Fitzgibbon drug family jailed for more than 30 years over Turkish heroin deal

Ian and Jason Fitzgibbon plotted to smuggle £6 million worth of high-strength heroin

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The Independent Online

Members of a notorious Liverpool crime family have been jailed for more than 30 years between them over a plot to smuggle £6 million worth of high-strength heroin into the country from Turkey.

Jason Fitzgibbon, 40, was sentenced to 16 years, while his 39-year-old brother, Ian, got 14 years and six months.

Jason, of Crofton Mansions, North Sudley Road, Liverpool, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import heroin and Ian, 39, of Heigham Gardens, St Helens, admitted conspiracy to supply heroin at earlier court hearings.

Their 60-year-old mother Christine, who admitted laundering the drug money, was sentenced to two years.

Ian was also convicted over a plot to flood the streets of Merseyside with 168,000 ecstasy tablets, with a potential street value of more than £800k.

Manchester Crown Court heard that the 57 kilos of 60% pure heroin would have cost around €300,000 to buy wholesale from Turkey but generate almost £7m at street value.

Sentencing Christine, who admitted money laundering at an earlier hearing, Judge Michael Henshell said: “You are a significant figure in this case. You knew precisely what you were involved in. You knew precisely where the money was coming from and I am quite sure you enjoyed the lifestyle that came with it.”

He conceded she must have been inflluenced by her sons but said she was “capable of making her voice felt in the house”.

The family were rumbled when Turkish police found the 57kg of high-purity heroin wrapped in brown tape in a car boot in 2011, and followed the trail back to Merseyside.

After their arrest, the Turkish conspirators were heard arguing, and one was overheard making comments that police believe linked them to Jason Fitzgibbon, who had flown to Turkey several times. The Fitzgibbons' home was bugged and evidence against them began to stack up.

Last October, Ian Fitzgibbon was recorded saying: “That’s the story of Jason’s life, that Turkey thing. Three hundred quid ... three hundred quid they owe us.”

Police said "quid" was code for a thousand pounds.

Police found £180,000 under the floorboards of Christine's home. A Department for Work and Pensions investigation is underway into over £1,500 a week that she was also claiming in benefits.

They were caught as part of Operation Bistro - an investigation into drug dealing and associated money laundering which police say was "taking place on an enormous scale between at least 2008 and 2011".

Matt Burton, of the Serious Organised Crime Agency in the North West, said the family "revelled in their notoriety".

He said: "What we're talking about here is a family who have held a very tight rein on areas of Liverpool for quite a number of years. They thought they were untouchable.

"Their motive? Financial greed, and greed in terms of their status and notoriety."

Noting the sophistication of the operation, he said: "If they were to have channelled their thoughts and efforts into a legitimate business I have no doubt they'd be very wealthy individuals.

"What we have here is a criminal family running a criminal business. Mum, very much the company director, finance director and consultant. Father a consultant, adviser to the two brothers. And the brothers, very hands-on managing directors involved in source countries and face-to-face meetings.

"Mum, as the finance director, would be well aware of the exchange rate between the euro and the pound. She would be aware of the impact of that in any importation.

"She's very acutely aware of our tactics... and would advise her sons on forensic strategies and ways to avoid detection."

In August last year Jason, who like his brother is a father-of-three, was given a seven-year prison sentence for serious assault.

Their criminal associates, who were caught in the same operation, appeared alongside the three in court.

Daniel Smith, 26, of Warren Road, Blundellsands, admitted conspiracy to supply MDMA and was jailed for 10 years while Neil Williams, 32, of Wellington Court, Waterloo, who admitted money laundering, was jailed for 21 months.