Bletchley man guilty of importing cocaine cutting agent

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A MAN who schemed to import benzocaine from China to be cut with cocaine has been found guilty at court.

Clifford Hall, 31, from Whaddon Way in Bletchley was arrested as part of Lancashire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit’s Operation Bramble, which was investigating a benzocaine supply chain operating across the country.

Officers worked with colleagues in Derbyshire Constabulary, the national Serious and Organised Crime Agency and the UK Border Agency to smash the chain and remove harmful substances from the nation’s streets.

More than 600 kilos of the powder, which can be legitimately used by dentists and vets but is more commonly used as a cutting agent for cocaine, were brought into the country to be mixed with the class A drug.

If mixed with cocaine, it has been estimated that the adulterated powder could have had a street value of over £48million.

Preston Crown Court heard how Hall imported large amounts of benzocaine into the country from China, with the packages being delivered to Burnley and Ripley, Derbyshire.

Searches were carried out in March and September 2011, with officers finding various drugs at Hall’s home. In June 2011 traces of benzocaine, cocaine and other drugs were found following raids at addresses in Manchester.

Following a trial, Clifford Hall was yesterday (Thursday) found guilty of assisting in the supply of class A drugs, possession of a controlled drug of class B with intent to supply, possession of a controlled drug of class C with intent to supply and possession of a controlled drug class C.

11 other people from across Burnley, Manchester and Derbyshire have already pleaded guilty to various drugs offences in connection with Operation Bramble and the operation being run by Derbyshire Constabulary. Sentencing will take place later this year.

Detective Inspector Graham Gallagher said: “This was a large scale operation, with various people assisting in the importation of a significant amount of benzocaine – almost 20 times the annual importation amount of the leading legitimate industry user.

“There is no lawful reason for any person to be in possession of benzocaine in the quantities found during this investigation, other than for criminal purposes. We worked with colleagues in SOCA, the UK Border Agency and Derbyshire Constabulary to break the chain of supply that was bringing these cutting agents into the country to be mixed with cocaine.”

He added: “In seizing this benzocaine, Lancashire Constabulary has prevented a significantly large amount of a cutting agent from being mixed with illegal drugs and making its way on to our streets where it could have caused damage to our communities. Drugs blight our neighbourhoods and fuel other crime, with burglaries and robberies often carried out to fund a drug habit.

“As this verdict shows, we will do all we can to stop organised crime groups who seek to maximise their profits by bringing cutting agents into the country.”