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Drug gang face jail after €30m cannabis smuggling scheme uncovered

The drugs were smuggled using rolls of carpets
The drugs were smuggled using rolls of carpets

Members of a drugs gang are facing years in jail after being caught using a bogus international carpet company to import £24 million (€30m) of cannabis into the UK.

The group shipped about 2.5 tonnes of high grade "skunk" concealed in tubes wrapped in rolls of carpet that were sent through unwitting legitimate haulage companies.

Detectives cracked the gang, whose network had pockets across east London and the Home Counties and had links to the continent, after a lorry carrying 350kg of cannabis with a value of £2 million was intercepted as it arrived from the Netherlands in September.

As the group was rounded up detectives found more than £50,000 in cash as well as smaller amounts of cocaine and ketamine.

Metropolitan Police Detective Superintendent Tom Mallinson said the scale of the convictions sent a clear message to would-be drug smugglers.

He said: "This gang created a complex conspiracy to conceal their criminal activity and the impact on the people of London and the Home Counties was severe.

"The investigation identified a sophisticated network across the United Kingdom and my team worked across Europe with our partners to secure this conviction. I am grateful to everyone involved."

Five men are due to be sentenced later in March for offences linked to the racket, as well as for dealing in smaller amounts of class A and class B drugs.

Martin Beckett, 42, of Theydon Bois, Essex, was found guilty on Friday of conspiracy to import cannabis at Wood Green Crown Court. He had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis in the United Kingdom.

Lee Jones, 47 of Fyfield, Essex, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cannabis and conspiracy to supply cannabis in the United Kingdom.

Marc Howell, 45, of Brent, north-west London, pleaded guilty to supply of cannabis and possession of cocaine and ketamine with intent to supply.

Stuart Openshaw, 28, of Andover, Hampshire, pleaded guilty to money laundering, supply of cannabis and supply of cocaine.

A provisional sentencing hearing was scheduled for Tuesday.