Drugs baron 'who made up to £640m' is jailed for 20 years

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The Independent Online

A drugs baron who is thought to have made up to £640m during his criminal career was jailed for 20 years yesterday after being convicted of dealing in cocaine and cannabis.

A drugs baron who is thought to have made up to £640m during his criminal career was jailed for 20 years yesterday after being convicted of dealing in cocaine and cannabis.

Andrew Billimore, 34, a former guide at Ely Cathedral, was described by a judge as dealing at the "very top of the bracket" of the most significant drugs ring seen in the eastern region for many years.

Detectives said after the hearing at Norwich Crown Court that the investigation had resulted in one of the largest seizures of drugs and cash in the history of British drug trafficking.

Police seized drugs with a street value of more than £800,000 and found more than £130,000 in cash after following Billimore, of Lawn Lane, Little Downham, Cambridgeshire, his half brother and "able lieutenant" Thomas McTaggart, a former paratrooper and their associates for months.

Billimore, who has drug offences dating back 11 years, told another prisoner while on remand that he was importing 50 kilograms every three days and detectives estimated he could have earned £640m over a six-year period.

"Drugs baron is the right word," said a police source.

Detective Sergeant Chris Mead of Cambridgeshire police said: "This inquiry resulted in one of the largest seizures of drugs, cash and property acquired by the profits of drug trafficking ever seen in this country.

"I am confident thatMcTaggart and Billimore's imprisonment has significantly damaged a regional network of drug supply that extends far beyond Cambridgeshire."

Passing sentence, Judge Paul Downes said: "It seems to me that this is a case of considerable seriousness, such seriousness as has probably not been heard of, certainly in this area, in recent years.

"In my opinion you are dealing at the very top of the bracket in cannabis and class A."

Billimore admitted conspiring to supply cannabis, supplying cannabis and conspiring to pervert the course of justice. He was found guilty of conspiring to supply cocaine after a two-week trial.

McTaggart, who was sentenced to 10 years was said to have made more than £1.2 million out of drugs trafficking.

During Billimore's trial, which ended on Thursday, the court was told that undercover police customs officers followed Billimore and McTaggart last summer as they collected drugs at Heathrow then drove to Cambridgeshire. They watched as the gang handed 104kg of cannabis to a drug dealer from London following a meeting at Royston rail station in Hertfordshire.

In May last year McTaggart had been stopped by customs officers at Heathrow they found a package in his luggage containing £69,700 in cash.

Billimore, a father-of-three whose wife Vicky Grey was jailed for 12 months earlier this year after being convicted of conspiring to pervert the course of justice, owned a former council house said to be worth about £70,000. McTaggart, also a father of three, lived in a council house.

The trial, and yesterday's sentencing hearing, was conducted amid high security, with armed police guarding entrances to the court and other officers conducting body searches on everyone who entered the building.

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