Operation Bramble has sting in the tail

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

Clifford Hall, 31, of Whaddon Way, 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 break it 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.

After a trial, Hall was 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.

Eleven others 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.