Six members of a drugs ring which smuggled more than £1.5 billion of cocaine into the UK in boxes of frozen chicken have been jailed.
The gang’s plot saw 15 tonnes of the Class A drug hidden in pallets of frozen chicken and imported from the Netherlands before being repackaged and sold to dealers, West Yorkshire Police said.
On Friday, six people were given prison terms totalling 58 years at Sheffield Crown Court for their roles in what is thought to be the largest drugs operation in England and Wales.
The criminal network imported high purity cocaine from the Mexican cartel “Nueva Generacion” and distributed it around the UK.
A total of 318 pallets of chicken over 34 deliveries were imported between March and December 2022.
Police said Stephen Rayner, from Leeds, played a leading role in directing and controlling several drug and cash couriers.
His sister, Cherie-Anne Rayner – and her partner Liam Harrington, used their home on Flaxton Street in the Beeston area of the city as a warehouse, where they weighed and repackaged the drugs.
Officers seized 132 kilos of cocaine, valued at £13 million and 35 kilos of methylamphetamine, valued at £7 million found in a locked bedroom in their home in September last year.
Cherie-Anne Rayner and Harrington were instructed by Stephen Rayner to supply large quantities of drugs to people on residential streets near to their home, the force said.
Brandon Maan, from Dewsbury, worked as a drugs and cash courier for the gang and would often be accompanied on drug runs by his partner Megan Budden, from Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury.
Maan was instructed by Stephen Rayner to deliver and collect drugs and cash to and from locations all over the UK.
Budden allowed Maan to use her home at The Crescent, Dewsbury, as a drug warehouse from where officers seized 58 kilos of cocaine, valued at £5.8 million in November last year.
Drugs runner Steven Gibson, from Glasgow, was trusted to collect large quantities of drugs from Redditch in the West Midlands where they were imported to from abroad, police said.
His van was then loaded with hundreds of kilos of cocaine which he would use to supply other couriers.
On December 15 last year, Gibson’s vehicle was seen leaving the warehouse unit in Summer Street, Redditch, where the cocaine was collected and was seen meeting fellow drugs courier Darren Hunter, also from Glasgow.
Holdalls were taken from Gibson’s van and put into the boot of Hunter’s Toyota Corolla.
Gibson was subsequently stopped by police with three large holdalls containing 75 kilos of cocaine, valued at £7.5 million, in the rear.
Hunter was stopped on the M6 and found to have 40 kilos of cocaine, estimated to be worth £4 million in the vehicle.
Police officers then attended the Redditch warehouse where they found Tabrez Hussain along with a forklift truck and pallets of frozen chicken.
Hussain’s role involved removing the cocaine from the boxes and putting it into large holdalls, before loading them into Gibson’s vehicle.
A legitimate Dutch haulage company was used to deliver the drugs from overseas, unaware of the cocaine hidden within the consignments.
Stephen Rayner, aged 31, of Scargill Grange, Leeds, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and methylamphetamine, class A controlled drugs, was jailed for 20 years.
Cherie-Anne Rayner, 30, of Flaxton Street, Leeds, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and methamphetamine was jailed for 15 years.
Brandon Maan, 23, of Churchbank Way, Dewsbury, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, will be sentenced at a later date.
Steven Gibson, 41, of Belsyde Avenue, Glasgow, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, was jailed for 12 years.
Darren Hunter, 30, of Queenslie Street, Glasgow, who pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply cocaine was jailed for six years.
Tabrez Hussain, 40, of Cuthbert Road, Birmingham, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, a class A controlled drug, will be sentenced at a later date.
Liam Harrington, 39, of Flaxton Street, Leeds, who pleaded guilty to assisting an organised crime group, was jailed for three years.
Megan Budden, 23, of The Crescent, Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury, who pleaded guilty to assisting an organised crime group, was jailed for two years.
Published: by Radio NewsHub