£135m drug gang ringleaderJonathan Arnold from Sutton Coldfield facing jail
Drugs gang ringleader Jonathan Arnold, of Sutton Coldfield, is facing jail after the major drugs operation in the West Midlands
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A major organised crime gang operating from the West Midlands behind the importation of at least £135m of drugs into the UK are facing years behind bars.
The gang brought nearly two tonnes of cocaine, heroin and ketamine into the UK via ports using a furniture removal company as a front for their travel. Ringleader Jonathan Arnold, of Sutton Coldfield, enjoyed a life of luxury on the back of his drugs importation empire, enjoying trips to Dubai where he would film himself driving a Ferrari.
The gang would use dummy loads of furniture to hide packages of drugs in lorries and vans, some of which had hidden compartments to conceal the shipments. Officers working in the Regional Organised Crime Unit for the West Midlands (ROCUWM) dismantled the gang’s operations and the six men are now facing years behind bars.
The gang’s downfall started in January last year when one of their couriers, who cannot be named for legal reasons, made a drug run to Europe in a Real Estate Removals van. But his van was searched by French Customs’ officers who found 63 blocks of cocaine weighing 71kg along with 99 bags of ketamine weighing 101kg. The drugs had a UK wholesale value of £2,561,900. The biggest single seizure came in April last year, when the gang tried to bring 1,477kg of cocaine with a street value of around £118m into Portsmouth.
The drugs, hidden among bananas, were seized by Dutch police officers on a ship which had travelled from Colombia to Vlissingen in the Netherlands. The ship was allowed to continue its journey into Portsmouth, after the drugs had been removed.
And in June last year, another of the gang’s drivers – Connor Fletcher – travelled to a town near Amsterdam for an overnight trip and returned with 60kg of cocaine hidden in two secret compartments built into the floor of the lorry. By this point, the police investigation had linked him to the gang and so police asked Border Force to intercept him on his return and he was arrested.
Those in court were:
- Jonathan Arnold, aged 29, of Cremorne Road, Sutton Coldfield – head of the group – An importer of drugs and someone who arranged importation of the drugs. He admitted four charges of conspiracy to import and supply drugs – cocaine, heroin and ketamine.
- James Jenkins, aged 25, of Lichfield Street, Tamworth – Was a supervisor for the operation. Has been found guilty of two charges - conspiracy to supply and also import cocaine.
- Connor Fletcher, aged 25, of Bridgnorth Road, Wolverhampton, drove an HGV into Dover from Calais containing 60 kg of cocaine concealed within two hides. Found guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine.
- Humayan Sadiq, aged 43, of Manchester. He had planned to move the cocaine that was due to have been brought into Portsmouth from Colombia via Holland. He was found guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine.
Estimates for the total value of all the drugs involved in the case vary, but it thought to be at least £135m. Sentencing will take place at a later date.
What has West Midlands Police said about the case?
Det Ch Supt Jenny Skyrme, head of the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit, said: “We can’t underestimate the scale and significance of this criminal organisation. This is the biggest drugs case that we have ever dealt with as an organisation.
“The gang was operating at the highest levels of criminality, bringing in industrial quantities of drugs to sell on the streets of the West Midlands and beyond.
“As the head of the crime group, Jonathan Arnold enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, driving luxury cars and enjoying trips to Dubai. He gave the impression that he was a legitimate businessman with a small firm which moved furniture and had a turnover of £50,000 a month.
“The reality was that he was arranging tens of millions of pounds worth of drugs to be imported into the UK from Europe and South America, which would have gone on to cause untold misery and significant harm to communities. We were able to build a really detailed picture of this operation through mobile phone analysis, CCTV and other intelligence.
“Working with the National Crime Agency, Border Force, and law enforcement abroad, we’ve been able to put the gang behind bars where they will spend many years.”