Drugs gang boss jailed over fake ambulance conspiracy
A drugs gang boss arrested after a "truly colossal" conspiracy to sneak heroin and cocaine into Britain in a fleet of Dutch-registered ambulances has been jailed for 20 years.
James Gibson was jailed alongside five other men - who received jail terms of between 17 and 11 years - after a court heard he was "towards the top of the tree" on the British side of the plot.
Gibson, of Cinder Lane, Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to conspiracy to import and conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
Passing sentence at Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Francis Laird QC said he was entirely sure that drugs with a wholesale value of £300 million had been smuggled into the UK in ambulances between October 2014 and June last year.
Top row left to right: James Gibson, Richard Clarke, Raymond DeSilva, (bottom row left to right) Jonathan Floyd, Petrit Kastrati and Darren Owen
The National Crime Agency uncovered the conspiracy - which even utilised fake patients and paramedics - after seizing an ambulance in Smethwick, near Birmingham.
The vehicle - one of four ambulances fitted with specialist "hides" by a Dutch gang - was found to contain cocaine with a street value of more than £30 million, and 74kg of heroin worth £8 million in individual deals.
In a statement issued after the case, the National Crime Agency (NCA) estimated that drugs with a street value of £1.6 billion were brought into Britain from the Netherlands during the conspiracy.
Gibson, the NCA said, had direct links with the Dutch-based gang, which orchestrated 45 smuggling trips using ambulances usually unloaded inside a commercial unit in Colchester, Essex.
Gibson was sentenced alongside Darren Owen, 48; Richard Clarke, 36; Jonathan Floyd, 47; Raymond DeSilva, 60; and Petrit Kastrati, 42.
Owen, of Balham Close, Rushden, Northants, was jailed for 15 years after acting as a trusted courier and Gibson's "right-hand man".
Clarke, of Tots Gardens, Acton, Suffolk, described in court as a trusted courier, was handed an 11-year term of imprisonment.
Floyd, of Whitethorn Avenue, Burnage, Manchester, was arrested in Suffolk last September and evidence gathered by the NCA showed he had met with Dutch ambulances to collect drugs distributed in the North West. He was jailed for 15 years.
DeSilva, of Cranbourne Road, Slough, Berkshire, received a 16-year sentence for acting as a courier.
Kastrati, of Oakwood Drive, Crystal Palace, London, was jailed for 17 years and six months after being arrested near the ambulance seized in Smethwick.
Gibson, Owen, Floyd, DeSilva and Kastrati were all charged with conspiracy to import and supply class A drugs, while Clarke admitted conspiracy to supply.
Sentencing the men, Judge Laird said: "This was a highly sophisticated, meticulously planned and well-executed conspiracy involving the importation of Class A drugs on a truly colossal scale."
Addressing Gibson, the judge added: "You were driving towards Smethwick to meet (Dutch gang members) and the ambulance.
"You had got as far as Walsall by about 10.15am and you were warned of the arrest of the men in Smethwick, probably by Darren Owen, who was there, and so aborted your journey.
"I am entirely satisfied that you were towards the top of the tree in terms of the British side of this conspiracy."
Commenting on the inquiry, Brent Lyon, Operations Manager at the NCA, said: "This was an audacious plot by organised criminals who were driven by profit and who went to extreme lengths to avoid law enforcement attention.
"Gibson's influence and organisation was significant, from the relationship he had with the Dutch organised crime group to the trusted network of UK couriers he used to distribute substantial amounts of class A drugs throughout the country.
"The six men sentenced today knew they were engaged in serious and organised crime yet continued their drug trafficking activities regardless."
Two Dutch nationals were given sentences of 24 and 28 years respectively in November last year for their roles in importing drugs into Britain through the port of Harwich.