A 31-YEAR-OLD Bletchley man has been jailed for seven years for his part in a multi-million pound scheme to import the cutting agent, benzocaine, into the UK.
Clifford Hall, of Whaddon Way, was found guilty of assisting in the supply of class A drugs, possession of a class B with intent to supply, possession of a class C drug with intent to supply and possession of a class C drug, following a trial at Preston Crown Court. He was sentenced at the same court on Friday.
Benzocaine can be legitimately used by dentists and vets, but is more commonly used as a cutting agent for cocaine, as mixing it with the class A drug increases profits. In this way, it has been estimated that the adulterated powder could have eventually had a street value of over £48million.
Hall imported large amounts of benzocaine into the country from China, with packages delivered to Burnley and Ripley, Derbyshire. The packages were then transported via Manchester back down to Milton Keynes.
The organised crime group he was a major part of brought over 600 kilos of the powder into the country from China, with the supply chain then stretching across the south of England and into Derbyshire, Lancashire and Manchester.
Thames Valley Police assisted Lancashire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, who launched Operation Bramble to tackle the gang.
Operation Bramble also involved Derbyshire Constabulary, the national Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and the UK Border Agency (UKBA).
Searches were carried out in March and September 2011, with Thames Valley Police 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.
Detective Superintendent Barry Halliday, Area Commander for Milton Keynes, said: “I welcome the custodial sentence given to Clifford Hall, who was part of a sophisticated gang involved in the importation of the cutting agent benzocaine into the UK.
“It is a well-known fact that drugs cause untold misery and ruin lives. My message is that if you are involved in drug dealing at any stage of the chain, even if you try and distance yourself from the actual sale of drugs, you will be treated as a main offender and dealt with by the courts.”
Detective Inspector Graham Gallagher, of Lancashire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), said: “The gang imported at least 485 kilos of benzocaine into the UK. This is a substantial amount – almost 20 times the annual importation amount of the leading industry user. When cut, this meant the gang were responsible for potentially over £48million worth of adulterated cocaine hitting our streets, creating untold misery.
“Drugs cause damage to our communities; they blight our neighbourhoods and fuel other crime, with burglaries and robberies often carried out to fund a drug habit.
“This destructive force was created by Hall and his associates, who were greedy and who sought to maximise their profits by bringing cutting agents into the country.”