Drugs kingpin guilty plea

An international crime network responsible for importing more than 50 tonnes of cannabis and cocaine into the UK has been smashed. The last remaining kingpin, Philip Baron, pleaded guilty to conspiracies to import drugs and money laundering today.

Gang responsible for 6% of cannabis sent to the UK

When police raided the villa of Walter Callinan, a close associate of Philip Baron, they found a 200-page ledger detailing transactions for a total of 17 tonnes of powerful 'skunk' cannabis sent to Britain over a 17 month period.

The shipments accounted for 6% of all cannabis sent into the UK at the time.

Callinan was jailed for 11 years 2011. Shortly after his arrest, Callinan phoned his son in a recorded phone call saying the game was essentially up. SOCA investigators listened as he told his son Ben:

There is documentation, spreadsheets of monies collected off motorways... 100 grand, 60 grand, 80 grand. We're f*** mate, they've got that much documentation.

F***ing hell, the Pope wouldn't get out of this.

Luxurious lifestyles funded by crime revealed

Paul Yearsley's luxurious home was featured in 'Lancashire Life' in 2009, under the title 'Living the Dream.' Credit: Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)

Paul Yearsley, a secondhand car dealer and close associated of Philip Baron, the head of one of the UK's most prolific drug gangs, used his drug money to fund a luxurious lifestyle in the UK and Spain.

Yearsley, who was earlier sentenced to 5 years 4 months his role in the gang, was even featured in a 2009 edition of Lancashire Life and his home displayed under the title "Living the Dream."

The feature showed the inside of the couple's home, which featured an indoor gym and swimming pool.
The feature showed the inside of the couple's home, which featured an indoor gym and swimming pool. Credit: Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)

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International criminal network 'completely dismantled'

The Serious Organised Crime Agency have said their investigation into the criminal activities of Philip Baron, dubbed Operation Beath, has "completely dismantled several high-level organised crime groups".

The following evidence has been collected:

  • £800,000 seized on streets of the UK
  • £10,297,523 evidence cash collected in the UK
  • 1,900kg cocaine, seized in South America
  • 71kg of cocaine, seized in the UK and Spain
  • 8,900kg cannabis, seized in the UK and Spain
  • 51 tonnes of cannabis imported into the UK
  • 1.2 tonnes of cocaine imported into the UK

Police seize £800,000 cash from drug gang

This cash was seized by police off the M62 in Leeds.
This cash was seized by police off the M62 in Leeds. Credit: Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)

As part of their investigation into the criminal activities of Philip Baron, and his associates, dubbed Operation Beath by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), police seized £800,000 in cash.

In one operation SOCA, working with West Yorkshire Police, seized £380,000 from a courier off the M62 near Leeds.

This cash was seized by police off the M62 in Leeds.
This cash was seized by police off the M62 in Leeds. Credit: Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)

Gang imported cocaine disguised as technical manuals

Boxes containing cocaine, seized by police in Cheltenham, smuggled in from Spain by the gang.
Boxes containing cocaine, seized by police in Cheltenham, smuggled in from Spain by the gang. Credit: Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)

Details of how Philip Baron's drug smuggling gang succeeded in importing more than 50 tonnes of cannabis and cocaine into the UK have emerged.

Vast quantities of cocaine, originating in South America, and travelling through Spain, were brought into the UK disguised as technical manuals, through regular services.

The boxes were professionally packed and disguised as brochures.
The boxes were professionally packed and disguised as brochures. Credit: Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)

The drugs were professionally wrapped and boxed and labelled with the logos of well-known international companies in Spain, and the contents detailed as procures of legitimate companies.

The boxes were sent from Spain into the UK.
The boxes were sent from Spain into the UK. Credit: Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)

The gang disguised themselves as ordinary businessmen and women and used serviced or "virtual" offices: often using the details of legitimate companies and individuals who had had their identities stolen to rent these offices.

Drugs ring dismantled after five-year investigation

A crime network responsible for importing more than 50 tonnes of cannabis and cocaine into the UK over the past 15 years has been dismantled by the Serious Organised Crime Agency. The five-year investigation involved:

  • 16 UK police forces
  • Six foreign law enforcement agencies
  • The Prison Service
  • The Crown Prosecution Service Organised Crime Division

During the course of the investigation there were drug and cash seizures throughout the UK, as well as in Spain and South America.

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Drugs kingpin 'thought he was above the law'

There's no doubt Baron and his associates were operating at the top end of organised crime. He lived a lavish lifestyle abroad, portraying himself as a legitimate businessman, while orchestrating the importation of huge amounts of drugs into the UK.

There is clear evidence that his criminal activity was having a direct impact on communities in many of our towns and cities. He recruited people whom he could trust to perform specific roles and moved drugs and cash around in a business-like fashion. Baron thought he was untouchable but we were able to work with partners, both here and overseas, to completely dismantle the crime groups he was linked to.

– Head of Investigations in the North West for SOCA, Steve Baldwin

International drugs network smashed by detectives

A network of international organised crime groups responsible for flooding the UK streets with more than 50 tonnes of cannabis and cocaine has been smashed by detectives.

Sentences totalling 189 years have been handed out following a five-year investigation led by the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Today at Liverpool Crown Court the last remaining kingpin, Philip Baron, aged 57, pleaded guilty to conspiracies to import drugs and money laundering.

Philip Baron has pleaded guilty to conspiracies to import drugs and money laundering. Credit: Police Handout

Baron, who is originally from Salford but had been living in Ireland for the last 15 years, will be sentenced later this month. He had fought extradition for more than two years before losing an appeal at the Supreme Court in Dublin last November.

Among those already sentenced were two of Baron's close criminal associates who headed their own crime groups. Walter Callinan, aged 60, from Stoke, and Paul Hewett, aged 55, from Hampshire, arranged the importation of drugs while based in Spain.

Callinan was jailed for 11 years and Hewett received 20 years.