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£62m cannabis-smuggling gang facing jail

A gang believed to be Britain's most prolific importers of skunk cannabis were facing jail today.

Terrence Bowler led the £62 million syndicate which brought the drugs into the UK hidden in boxes of flowers from Holland.

He will be sentenced, along with 11 others, at Southwark Crown Court in London for his leading role in one of Britain's biggest drugs smuggling networks.

Details of the case can be reported for the first time today for legal reasons.

At one point, the gang was shipping in consignments worth up to £750,000 a week and would use an east London bureau de change to clean up its "dirty" profits.

A 14-month undercover investigation found that the drugs were imported into the UK through Harwich ferry port in Essex and taken to a warehouse in Chatham, Kent.

But officers at the port intercepted a shipment of 494lb (224kg), worth more than £750,000 to the gang, on July 16 2008, prompting a major change in tactics.

From September 2008, the drugs were shipped to Hull and taken to a warehouse in Leeds, West Yorkshire, before being transported to one of a number of lock-up garages in Kingston, Worcester Park, Epsom and Ashtead, where the skunk cannabis would be unpacked and stored.

Along with Bowler, who led the gang's so-called board of directors, 11 others now face jail in connection with the network.

Bowler, 40, of St Albans Road, Kingston, Surrey, Peter Moran, 37, of Fulham Palace Road, Fulham, west London; and Mark Kinnimont, 40, of Claremont Road, Surbiton, Surrey, made up the board of directors and all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import controlled drugs and conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime.

Liam Salter, David Couchman and Timothy Sullivan represented the next level of authority.

Salter, 39, of Reeds Rest Lane, Tadworth, Surrey, Couchman, 38, of Sweeney Crescent, Southwark, south London, and Sullivan, 38, of Ash Court, Epsom, Surrey, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply controlled drugs and conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime.

Asim Bashir, 35, of The Drive, Ilford, Essex, made sure that the drug money was included with legitimate cash and laundered through the financial system.

He was convicted of laundering the proceeds of crime.

Roger Alexander, 44, of Churchill Close, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, sold much of the imported product, earning £150 to £175 per kilo, and admitted conspiracy to supply controlled goods and conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime.

Peter Brown, 37, of King Henry's Road, Kingston, was a late entrant into the operation, only joining in September 2008, but was key once the drugs started being imported to Leeds via Hull.

He was witnessed meeting dealer Barrie Burn, 59, of Hinton Road, Bristol, and both men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply controlled drugs.

Andrew West, 36, of Willowbank Gardens, Tadworth, was a driver for the gang and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime.

Driver James Hay, who helped to transport drugs and money, was found guilty today by a jury at Southwark Crown Court of possession with intent to supply controlled drugs.

Hay, 31, of Stonny Croft, Ashtead, was remanded in custody by Judge Gregory Stone QC and told he must expect a custodial sentence.

Mandy Cripps, 34, of The Pentlands, High Wycombe, Richard Seville, 42, of Ecclesbourne Road, Islington, north London, Peter Gilmour, 36, of Hithercroft Road, High Wycombe, and Lindsay Graham, 42, of Bushey Road, Sutton, Surrey, were cleared of any involvement in the gang earlier this week.

All the convicted defendants will be sentenced "within two or three weeks", the judge said.