Two drugs gang bosses have been jailed after a police operation which led to the seizure of £20 million worth of cocaine from a van on the M6.
A total of 22 people were found guilty of criminal offences as part of Operation Dreadnought, a covert investigation into Warrington-based organised crime groups led by drug dealers Jamie Simpson and Jamie Oldroyd, a Cheshire Police spokesman said.
Video from a police helicopter shows the dramatic moment Simpson, 31, who headed one of the two gangs, was arrested on the M6 near Knutsford, Cheshire, on August 2 last year, after police vehicles surrounded his Ford Transit in the fast lane.
Officers made what they believe to be the largest land-based seizure of cocaine, as they found 186 kilos of high purity cocaine concealed under the floor of the van, as well as in the passenger seat and in boxes.
Simpson was jailed for 11 years and six months for conspiracy to supply cocaine in April, but his sentence can only now be reported as restrictions imposed until the end of another trial have been lifted.
Cheshire Police said Simpson and associates Andrew Daniels, 41, Clare Smith, 36, and Dean Brettle, 37, had travelled to Kent and picked up the consignment from Rochester Pier, where it is believed to have come in from Europe.
The three gang members were also jailed for conspiracy to supply cocaine, with Daniels sentenced to eight years and six months, Smith to eight years and nine months and Brettle to six years.
Police said Simpson’s dealing came to light as they carried out surveillance on the gang run by Oldroyd, 29, who was jailed in May for 14 years and three months for conspiracy to supply cocaine.
Detective Chief Inspector Mike Evans, from Cheshire Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said Oldroyd was running a nationwide drugs operation and would sometimes work with Simpson and his gang to acquire cocaine.
Mr Evans said: “We know the reach of this was right across the UK essentially, due to the amounts involved.”
He said the gang led “cash-rich” lives and drove fast, high-powered cars – with Oldroyd driving 17 different cars during the 14 months he was under surveillance.
A video filmed on a phone shows Oldroyd and Taluant Paja, 22, who was jailed for six years and six months for his part in the conspiracy, counting out an estimated £150,000 in cash on the coffee table of a home where Rolex watches can also be seen.
Mr Evans said: “They were carefree, there was an arrogance to them and they led a bit of a gangster lifestyle.”
Mr Evans said it was the gang’s extravagant lifestyles which led to their arrests.
He said: “It’s really good that the community has fed us the intelligence that’s allowed us to start this operation, so if you have got people in your community who are living beyond their means and you suspect their involvement in drugs then ring Crimestoppers or ring police and let us act on that information.”