Acton man jailed for role in major drugs network which saw fake ambulances used to transport drugs

Richard Clarke from Acton has been jailed for 11 years. ANL-160407-155855001
Richard Clarke from Acton has been jailed for 11 years. ANL-160407-155855001
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A man from Acton has been jailed for 11 years after storing drugs as part of a organised crime network linked to the distribution drugs worth £1.6billion.

The head of the network, James Gibson, was jailed for 20 years on Friday at Birmingham Crown Court, after pleading guilty to importing and supplying class A drugs, while Richard Clarke, 36, from Tots Gardens, Acton, was jailed for 11 years for his role.

Gibson, aged 56 from Ollerton in Nottinghamshire, had a leading role in distributing substantial amounts of class A drugs to organised crime groups across the UK.

He had direct links with Dutch organised crime group OCG who used a fleet of fake ambulances to bring up to £1.6bn worth of drugs to the UK.

In June 2015, CCTV footage from the Holiday Inn Express in Colchester showed Gibson meeting with Dutchmen Olaf Schoon and Leonardus Bijlsma.

The following day, a Dutch registered ambulance was seen to enter the car park of the hotel where substantial quantities of drugs were unloaded.

On June 16, 2015, National Crime Agency Officers, working with West Midlands Police, intercepted one of the ambulances in Hill Street, Smethwick.

This ambulance contained 193 kilos of high purity cocaine with a potential street value in excess of £30million, 74 kilos of heroin with a potential street value in excess of £8million and MDMA with a potential street value of £60,000.

Gibson’s criminal activities extended beyond the Dutch OCG. On September, 19, 2015, NCA officers observed Gibson meet with one of his trusted couriers, Darren Owen, 48, from Rushden in Northamptonshire, at Raunds Services.

The following day Owen was arrested in Sudbury having collected two boxes containing class A drugs from Clarke from Acton in Suffolk.

Clarke’s house was used to store the drugs before they were distributed around the UK. When officers searched his house, they discovered five cardboard boxes in the kitchen, each containing heat-sealed blocks of class A drugs, the same that had been found in Owen’s vehicle.

The two boxes in Owen’s vehicle and the five boxes in Clarke’s kitchen contained approximately 58 kilos of class A drugs, with an estimated street value of £8m, 53 kilos of cocaine – estimated street value of £7.5m and five kilos of heroin – estimated street value of £500,000.

Evidence showed that Clarke took receipt of a total of 17 boxes the day before his arrest. Two had been given to Owen, five were found in his kitchen meaning he had moved ten elsewhere. Officers estimate that the 17 boxes – had they all been recovered – would have contained approximately 152 kilos of class A, with an estimated potential street value £20m.

Brent Lyon, operations manager at the National Crime Agency said: “This was an audacious plot by organised criminals who were driven by profit and who went to extreme lengths to avoid law enforcement attention.

“Gibson’s influence and organisation was significant, from the relationship he had with the Dutch organised crime group to the trusted network of UK couriers he used to distribute substantial amounts of class A drugs throughout the country.

“I have no doubt that through our activity, we have disrupted the endeavours of a number of organised crime groups operating in the UK.

“We will continue to be flexible and use all the tools available to us to target organised criminals and protect the communities that we serve”.