Merseyside drugs gang leaders jailed for 17 years

 

Members of a gang which controlled the supply of drugs to large parts of Britain have been jailed.

The Merseyside-based traffickers plotted to flood the streets of Scotland, South Wales, Lancashire and Cheshire with heroin and cocaine.

Police said the "major players" in the drugs trade were caught following an eight-month covert operation by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, Titan.

During the investigation, police seized drugs with a wholesale value of £1 million - including 20.4lb (9.25kg) of heroin, 18.2lb (8.25kg) of cocaine, 26.5lb (12kg) of amphetamine and 11,370 class C benzylpiperazine (BZP) tablets.

Gang leaders John Cooke, 32, of Walmer Road, Birkdale, Merseyside, and James Swarez, 44, of Queens Road, Crosby, Merseyside, were both jailed for 17 years at Liverpool Crown Court after earlier pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply controlled drugs.

The pair, who lived a luxury lifestyle thanks to their ill-gotten gains, obtained high purity drugs from trafficker Paul McDonald, 44, and used a network of couriers to target drug addicts in Glasgow, Cardiff, Preston and Ellesmere Port.

McDonald, of Fernbank Road, Huyton, who also admitted conspiracy to supply controlled drugs, was jailed for 15 years.

Ten other gang members, who were used as couriers, received jail sentences of between five and 12 years.

Detective Superintendent Jason Hudson, from Titan, said: "Today's sentences reflect the severity of the scourge of drugs on our streets.

"We launched a lengthy investigation into this organised crime unit and obtained evidence that ensured some major players in the drugs trade have been taken out of action for a considerable amount of time.

"While some of the gang were used as couriers, others such as Cooke, Swarez and McDonald, were at the top of the hierarchy of this group and their lifestyles show they have made huge amounts of money through their criminal activities.

"The methods used to distribute the drugs show a level of sophistication.

"They are now facing a considerable amount of time behind bars and will be stripped of all their ill-gotten gains, sending a strong message to anyone involved in organised crime, or thinking of getting involved, that no-one is untouchable and you will be found and brought to justice.

"Titan will continue to target all those involved in organised crime and take robust action against them to protect our communities across the North West."

PA