Devon

'James Bond' lifestyle of cocaine gang

Eastgate and Flisher
Image caption Eastgate and Flisher enjoyed a champagne lifestyle as leaders of the gang

The lavish "James Bond" lifestyle of a drug smuggling gang first began to unravel in 2009 when police stopped and searched an uninsured BMW at Cullompton Services on the M5 in Devon.

Inside the vehicle, driven by Christopher Leader, officers found 5kg (11lb) of cocaine, worth about £250,000.

The drugs were wrapped up in a parcel made to look "like a present".

The discovery was the start of Operation Stagshaw - in which detectives from Devon and Cornwall Police began work to track down the gang.

Detectives found pictures of the gang's ringleader Timothy Eastgate, 31 and his deputy Paul Flisher, 38, "living a lavish lifestyle".

"They drove around in Ferraris, Lamborghinis, they had a private box at the O2 Arena in London," said senior investigating officer Jim Hinchliffe.

"Mr Eastgate had a very large house in Estepona (on Spain's Costa del Sol).

"He had a yacht called 'Shaken not Stirred', they lived that sort of lifestyle."

Image caption The men drove around in sports cars and owned a yacht

Eastgate and Flisher even had mobile phones whose digits ended in 007 and Mr Hinchliffe, who has now retired from the force, said the James Bond image "appears to have been a driver for them".

Gun in freezer

Operation Stagshaw stretched from Essex to Devon as officers used mobile phone records and the number plate recognition system to identify drugs couriers and dealers.

Eastgate was eventually arrested in September 2010 at a hotel in Plymouth.

At his house in Norfolk police found a number of suitcases containing cocaine and benzocaine, a dental anaesthetic which has a similar effect to cocaine.

They also found an X-ray machine, used to test how well the drugs packages were disguised.

In the freezer officers found a handgun, along with a silencer and ammunition.

Other weapons found in connection with investigation included a sawn-off shotgun.

Image caption Detectives found an X-ray machine used to test drugs packages

Detectives also found a USB stick belonging to Eastgate, containing a spreadsheet indicating he had delivered more than £3m worth of cocaine to dealers in England.

"Much of that came to Plymouth", Mr Hinchliffe said.

Sean Battle, 42, was Eastgate's man in Plymouth. He owned a large home in Bere Alston, expensive jewellery, cars and property abroad.

Three other men Stephen Procter, 39, from Plymouth, James Wright, 28, from London and Christopher Leader, 54, from Romford, were the gang's couriers, delivering drugs and picking up cash.

Commenting on the gang's conviction at Exeter Crown Court on drugs and firearms charges, Mr Hinchliffe said: "The work done by the police in conjunction with the CPS is done to protect the communities that we all serve.

"I hope this serves as a salutary lesson to people that are out there doing this sort of thing that we will catch you and, if convicted, you will receive substantial prison sentences."

Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed that work would now begin to seize the assets of the drug gang's illicit lifestyle.

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