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Nine men sentenced to total of 154 years after millions of pounds worth of drugs are seized

PUBLISHED: 13:42 18 June 2015 | UPDATED: 13:42 18 June 2015

Drugs seized.

Drugs seized.

Archant

A series of arrests were made.

Nine men have been sentenced to a total of more than 154 years in prison after millions of pounds of drugs were taken off the streets.

The arrests follow an investigation by the Kent Police and the National Crime Agency (NCA), with officers making a series of arrests in May last year.

It began in September 2013 after customs officials in Germany contacted the NCA about packages destined for Swanley that contained more than 100kgs of Class A and B drugs.

Investigators from the NCA worked with Kent detectives to follow the boxes to Swanley, where they saw them being delivered to an industrial unit in New Barn Road.

One member of the gang- 35-year-old member Stevie Joyce, of Swanley, took possession of the boxes and was arrested.

A complex investigation began, leading to police finding the rest of the gang- who were arranging the importation of millions of pounds of drugs on a weekly basis.

By April last year they had rented a new industrial unit in Eton in Berkshire, and NCA officers observed the delivery of another set of packages, this time containing 55 kilos of heroin, that was purported to be car parts being delivered from Belgium.

Mobile phone data was used to identify key members of the group and officers struck as the gang attempted to distribute the drugs to other crime groups who had travelled from as far afield as Liverpool, Manchester and Blackburn to collect their share of the drugs, showing the enormous scale of the operation.

Forensic tests on heroin packages seized showed they would have had a likely potential street value of some £6.5m.

The top tier of the group was identified as Stephen Hall of The Green, Romney Marsh and Royston Jones of Dudley Avenue, Westgate-on-Sea.

They had both fled the country, and Hall was arrested as he flew in to the UK from Lithuania and Jones was arrested when he landed at Heathrow after being deported from Thailand.

After a trial at Maidstone Crown Court, seven defendants were found guilty and on June 17 and 18 were sentenced to 154 years and four months.

Roy James, also known as Royston Jones, 56, from Dudley Avenue in Westgate-on-Sea was convicted of five charges; conspiracy to supply cocaine, conspiracy to supply heroin, conspiracy to import cocaine, conspiracy to import heroin and conspiracy to import cannabis. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

Thomas Atkins, 31, from Chave Road in Dartford was found guilty of three charges; conspiracy to import cocaine, conspiracy to import heroin and conspiracy to import cannabis.

He was sentenced to 17 years and 6 months.

29 year-old Lee Selves from Wellcome Avenue in Dartford was found guilty of conspiring to import heroin.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Stevie Joyce, 35, from New Barn Road in Swanley was convicted of conspiracy to import cocaine, conspiracy to import heroin and conspiracy to import cannabis.

He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Nicholas Parker 34, of Wellcome Avenue Dartford was convicted of conspiring to import heroin.

He was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Sonny Selves, 24, from Hillhouse Road in Stone was convicted of conspiring to import heroin.

He was sentenced to 16 years and 6 months.

Julian Bridgen, 50, from Arkwright Road, Wellingborough was convicted of conspiracy to import heroin.

He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

A eighth man - Stephen Hall, 53, from The Green, Romney Marsh - pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to 10 offences of conspiracy to supply and conspiracy to import heroin, cocaine and cannabis.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on Richard Middleton, 34, from Ruskin Grove, Dartford, while 52 year-old Stephen Large, from Shipbourne Road in Tonbridge was found not guilty of money laundering.

An eleventh member of the group, Sanpreet Dhaliwal, 30 years-old of Woodland Avenue in Slough, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to importing heroin and possession with intent to supply cannabis.

He was sentenced early to 7 years and 4 months in prison.

Detective Superintendent Mark Hall from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: “The top tier of this organised crime group had gone to extensive lengths to hide their involvement and to distance themselves from this criminality through the use of false names, false companies and the use of a network of couriers to distribute the controlled drugs.

“As a result they made significant profits over a number of years without detection.

“The value of drugs imported by this group into Swanley and Eton alone are estimated to run to several million pounds and the investigation team has worked tirelessly to ensure that not only are the people responsible brought to justice but that the profits they have made from this criminality are identified and confiscated.

“This operation represents a significant disruption to the supply of drugs within our county and the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate and the National Crime Agency will continue to work together to target organised criminals and their assets to ensure that crime does not pay.”

Investigating officer DC Mark Froome said: “This gang was a highly organised criminal outfit that saw over 100kgs of drugs being brought into England; a haul that would have made the gang a significant amount of money.

“I’m glad that we have been able to convict the offenders and stop the drugs entering circulation and causing misery to the lives of drug users, their families and communities across Kent and beyond.”

National Crime Agency branch commander Oliver Higgins said: “This organised crime group had international contacts and were involved in importing huge amounts of class A drugs worth many millions of pounds into the UK.

“Through our close work with Kent Police and other partners we have been able to systematically dismantle the network from bottom to top. We are determined to pursue and disrupt organised criminal networks and prevent them causing harm to our communities.”

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