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Abbey Solicitors enter negotiated plea for drugs network

3rd Mar 2014

An international network of organised criminal gangs that brought £300m worth of illegal drugs into the UK has been dismantled after the boss admitted his role.

At Liverpool Crown Court Phillip Baron, 57, pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering.  His actions had funded a lavish lifestyle for 15 years, with homes in Spain, Dublin and the UK.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) said the network was responsible for about 6% of all cannabis shipped into the country over the last 15 years.  That means 51 tonnes of cannabis.

The drugs had an estimated street value of £300m.

Police said the group set up 12 virtual offices around the country, where drugs would be delivered to.  During the police probe, named Operation Beath, officers intercepted 15kg of cocaine, with a street value of £2.5m, when it arrived at an office in Bolton.

Operation Beath was a five-year investigation that spanned 22 UK and international police forces.

According to police the smuggling operation was among the 10 biggest ever uncovered in the UK.  Irish authorities believed Baron ran a company that rented out deckchairs in Spain, but in reality he was at the helm of a massive drugs network that imported over 52 tonnes of cocaine and cannabis into the UK.

The criminals used the details of established companies to label packages full of drugs, and had over 100 consignments delivered by legitimate courier services.

Steve Baldwin, of SOCA, said: “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 and in particular the North West.

“They thought they were above the law but we were one step ahead of them.”

Abbey Solicitor’s client was eventually extradited from Ireland under the European Arrest Warrant regime, and a negotiated plea was satisfactorily entered at Liverpool Crown Court.  Tim Forte of Counsel was instructed as Leading Junior by Abbey Solicitors.