A BURNLEY man has been jailed for his part in a cocaine operation worth £3.5 billion.
Barry Hartley (63), of Cog Lane, Burnley, was sentenced to 11 years alongside two other defendants, Jamie Dale (32), of Claymere Avenue, Rochdale, and John Cawley (31) of Foreshaw Close, Fleetwood, who were locked up for 18 and 15 years respectively.
The three men had conspired to supply the illegal drugs trade with tonnes of chemicals used as cutting agents.
If these chemicals were mixed at a ratio of 1:1 with class A drugs – a dilution typical at the very top of the supply chain – the street value of the resultant powders would be more than £3.5 billion.
All three had denied the charges but were convicted following a 10-week trial.
Between September 2005 and July 2008, Dale, assisted by Cawley and Hartley, imported and supplied almost 36 tons of cutting agents.
A number of these shipments were marked or tracked by SOCA (the national police team who deal with serious and organised crime).
The investigation identified 21 seizures where chemicals supplied by Dale’s organisation were recovered in circumstances consistent with illegal drug distribution, many as a direct result of intelligence provided by tracking the chemicals supplied by Dale. The seizures spanned the breadth of the UK from Bristol to Rotherham, Edinburgh to Bournemouth
Senior investigating officer John Wright said: “These are convictions for conspiracy to supply class A drugs though the men were dealing in cutting agents. As far as SOCA is concerned, knowingly selling such chemicals to drug dealers makes you as guilty as the dealers themselves.
“The trade in cutting agents is a major enabler of criminal activity, generating huge profits for drug dealers and making class A drugs cheaper and more available at street level.”
Alun Milford, head of Organised Crime Division at the CPS, said: “The three defendants were found guilty of offences of conspiring to supply Class A controlled drugs - cocaine and diamorphine - and a Class B drug, amphetamine; this was the first time such charges were applied to activities involving such large amounts of cutting agents.
“Dale bought the cutting agents using a dummy ‘front’ company, assisted by Cawley, while Hartley was involved in the delivery and onward supply of the chemicals to their contacts in the drugs world.
“This complex and lengthy investigation by SOCA also involved a large number of police forces and successful prosecution has broken this criminal chain near the start. Police and CPS will continue to bring those involved in such insidious crimes to justice.”
The chemicals supplied by Dale include benzocaine, lidocaine and procaine, which are commonly used to cut cocaine and which are also mixed with amphetamine and heroin. There were also large importations of paracetamol and caffeine which are both common cutting agents for heroin. During the three years of the investigation, Dale and his associates imported 20% of the global demand for benzocaine. This is the most commonly used cutting agent for cocaine once it has arrived in the UK.