International drug dealers jailed after police smash £58m heroin and cocaine smuggling operation at Hunsdon farm
Police smashed a £58 million cocaine and heroin smuggling operation being run from a business unit just eight miles from Bishop's Stortford.
Class A narcotics had been shipped from Holland in 39 separate deliveries to rented premises at Little Samuels Farm, on the B180 Widford Road in Hunsdon.
It was the largest ever drugs conspiracy investigated by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit, St Albans Crown Court was told on Friday (Sept 18).
Robert Brooks, 50, was described as the managing director of the English end of the organised crime network that was connected to Europe and much further afield, said prosecutor John Riley.
Brooks worked with encrypted phones, which cost £15,000 per contract, and used the name "Jaguar Palace". Sometimes he was not present and directed operations from Spain said the prosecutor.
Co-defendant Richard Campbell, 49, was the "warehouse manager" while Tomasz Wozniak, 28, was a hired hand who used a forklift truck to unload boxes from a lorry into sheds and barns at the farm.
Stephen Capp, 56, was a courier who went to the farm 18 times to collect drugs to deliver to the north of England.
Brooks, of Elder Court, Hertford, will be sentenced next Friday (Sept 25) having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to fraudulently evade the prohibition on the importation of class A drugs and possession of criminal property, between November 2018 and August 2019.
Campbell, of Milton Keynes, Bucks, admitted conspiracy to evade the prohibition of class A drugs and was jailed for 13-and-a-half years.
Wozniak, of the same address, admitted conspiracy to supply controlled class A drugs. He was jailed for six years and three months.
Capp, of Old Lodges, Hull, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply a class A drug on 18 visits to the farm. He also admitted possession of class A drugs with intent to supply after being stopped in December 2019 with 5kg in his car. His vehicle had a "sophisticated" hiding place for the contraband. He was sentenced to nine years and six months behind bars.
Pieter Mannessen received six years in Holland following the seizure of 70kg of cocaine that was due to be delivered to the farm.
The prosecutor said that in August last year, the network's last two deliveries were intercepted and 45kg of heroin and 70kg of cocaine were seized.
Over the 39 deliveries, he estimated that 1,835kg (1.8 tons) of class A drugs had been imported. The total value was between £42m and £58m.
The drugs were hidden at the bottom of consignments of worthless goods. One was a load of spider catcher devices that were of such little value that they were dumped in a skip.
Defence brief Laban Leake said that Campbell was "sincerely remorseful" having seen the effect drugs have on inmates at Bedford prison since his arrest.
David Osborne, for Wozniak, said that his client was in a "markedly different" position from others in the case. His was a lesser role and he was "groomed bit by bit". He said Polish-born Wozniak was a lowly labourer with a drug addiction and had only become involved in the conspiracy later on.
For Capp, Andrew Corcut said that he was of blameless character before his arrest. He said Capp's business had gone bankrupt and he was in debt. His role in the conspiracy was as a freight driver, a job he had previously held.
Judge Michael Kay QC said: "Addiction to heroin and cocaine destroys the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. It becomes, at times, all they think about. It destroys them and it destroys their families. It causes heartbreak to parents, to children and to those who know addicts.
"It is also the cause of a large element of crime in this country. People who are so badly addicted they can think of nothing else and will rob, steal and cheat to obtain money to feed their craving for drugs. It is a scourge on society."
He added: "Those who make money from such misery and degradation of fellow citizens will achieve substantial prison sentences. The business is not just illegal, it is immoral and despicable."
Judge Kay said that the men had been in a "highly organised and sophisticated operation at the top level of international drug dealing".