South West Wales

Jail for drug network that supplied the Swansea Valley

Police drugs raid in Pontardawe on 30 June 2009
Image caption Police raided seven properties in Pontardawe on 30 June 2009

A gang who "peddled misery" by supplying up to 75% of the cocaine sold in the Swansea Valley thought they were "untouchable", say police.

Members owned large houses both home and abroad and drove around in "expensive and flashy" cars while frustrated locals looked on as they lived "lavish lifestyles" off the proceeds of their crime.

But the network they had built came crashing down with police raids on seven properties in the quiet town of Pontardawe near Swansea last year.

Eight of the gang received sentences totalling almost 80 years. A further two will be sentenced next week.

The judge at Cardiff Crown Court said their multimillion pound drug conspiracy had caused "incalculable damage".

It was the culmination of a two-year investigation into cocaine trafficking on the south coast of England and the Swansea Valley.

It was launched by the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) in September 2007.

Set up to tackle major crime such as drug and people smuggling, gun crime, fraud and money laundering, it had identified links between the supply of drugs to the Swansea Valley and individuals in Bournemouth.

The Dorset and South Wales Police forces were brought on board to help build a clear picture of what they were up to.

The court heard it was done through surveillance, secret bugging of their phones and eventually the drugs and money found on them when they were arrested.

This showed that the crime network comprised three regional hubs in Bournemouth, Kent (incorporating Bexleyheath, Chislehurst, Bromley and Maidstone) and the Swansea Valley.

These were directed respectively by Craig Blake, Darren Quick and David Richards.

The south Wales group headed by Richards was buying the drugs from Quick's Kent organisation, with Blake's gang in Bournemouth acting as the go-between.

At its height it resulted in up to eight kilos of pure cocaine heading for the Swansea valley every week.

That was then cut with other substances meaning much more of the powder was sold to drug users - accounting for up to 75% of the area's supply.

That trade brought the key players considerable rewards with the court hearing of luxury homes in the UK and abroad along with "expensive and flashy" cars.

In June and July 2009, the five most prominent members of the Bournemouth and south Wales groups, along with a number of associates, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to supply controlled drugs, along with associated money laundering offences.

The investigation also discovered that Blake and Quick had previously collaborated in the export of high-purity cocaine to Australia using a sophisticated method of concealment.

Working with the Australian Federal Police, evidence was obtained of both the drug trafficking and associated money laundering through a Panamanian-registered company and bank accounts in the US and Cyprus. This resulted in additional charges against the pair.

The south Wales gang, which also included Keri Pritchard, Adam Horton and David Williams, was primarily responsible for both the wholesale and street level distribution of the cocaine, the court heard.

Two pubs in the Pontardawe area which had previously been hubs of local social life had become "no-go" through being frequented by the gang.

Inspector Jeff Handley of the Pontardawe neighbourhood policing team said: "These individuals are very well known in the Swansea Valley community and perceived themselves to be untouchable as far as the law is concerned.

"What this operation has clearly demonstrated is that no-one is above the law and anyone involved in serious organised crime will be targeted and brought to justice.

"The Swansea Valley is a fantastic place to live and work.

"These people peddled misery to vulnerable members of our community who, once hooked, had no escape.

"I am delighted with the support we have had from our communities and I know that they were frustrated seeing these individuals living off the proceeds of crime, living lavish lifestyles and driving around in expensive cars.

"This operation has lasted over 18 months, most of which was out of the public eye. It's essential that justice is not only done but seen to be done, which is what has been achieved today."

Image caption The 10 men from the south coast of Englnand and south Wales were sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court

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