Undercover police seized pounds 7m worth of ecstasy

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DETECTIVES seized pounds 7m worth of the drug ecstasy - the largest haul found in the United Kingdom - after an undercover surveillance operation, an Old Bailey jury was told yesterday.

A chemist involved in manufacturing the drug, which is popular with young people attending nightclubs, raves and acid house parties, had agreed to turn supergrass and would give evidence against the gang that planned the operation, Andrew Mitchell, for the prosecution, told the court.

Peter Vukmirovic 'became involved in the drugs scene and began organising the importation of ecstasy in liquid form from the Continent and arranging the drug's manufacture,' Mr Mitchell said.

More than 27kg (59.53lb) of ecstasy in powder form was discovered by police when they arrested the gang. During raids they also confiscated two commercial pill- making machines, as well as 1,600 pills ready for sale.

The gang had set up an elaborate marketing operation to sell the drug. 'Flying dove' brand marks were specially made to help sell the pills and amphetamine was added to the ingredients to make it even more attractive to buyers.

The chemical liquid used to make the drug was brought from the Netherlands by couriers in bottles of Kronenbourg beer, Mr Mitchell told the court.

'It is a very lucrative trade and people made a lot of money,' he said. One of the six defendants had pounds 35,000 in cash on him when he was arrested as he tried to leave the country in March last year.

On trial are Tom Slater, 49, of Harrow, north-west London, Gary Slater, 32, of Northolt, west London, Zachary Slater, 26, and his wife, Deborah Thain, 25, of Harrow, Ian Ring, 30, of Sutton, Surrey and Gary Eales, 32, of Romford, Essex.

They have variously denied plotting to smuggle, produce, or supply the drug or assist in the retention of the proceeds of drug trafficking.

Vukmirovic, of Paddington, west London, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to manufacture ecstasy.

'He is the principal witness in the trial and his evidence is fundamental to the Crown's case. Much of what he will tell you has been supported by diligent police investigation. There is an abundance of supporting evidence,' Mr Mitchell said.

The gang intended to supply ecstasy to the whole of northern Europe and a meeting of drug traffickers was set up in Maastricht, Belgium.

Mr Mitchell said that, ironically, the drug traffickers were meeting at Maastricht at the same time as EC delegates who were hammering out the details for European union.

'Among the treaties that were being struck there were others making deals for the importation and supply of ecstasy,' he said.

Thomas Slater flew to the meeting from his Spanish home. 'Thomas Slater is undoubtedly the moving light behind this part of the operation. He wanted to move his operation into northern Europe and was keen to set up in Holland and organise a drug smuggling operation there,' Mr Mitchell said.

The trial was adjourned until today.