South Scotland

Spain to UK cocaine smuggling gang jailed

Drugs gang
Image caption Ringleaders Keith Blenkinsop, top left, and Lindsay Harkins, top right, were jailed along with couriers Andrew Burns, Robert Dalrymple and James Elvin

A drugs gang responsible for smuggling cocaine with an estimated street value of £40m into the UK has been jailed.

They were involved in importing the drugs from Spain between 2007 and 2009.

Ringleaders Keith Blenkinsop, 43, of Annan, and Lindsay Harkins, 44, of Helensburgh, got 12 and 10 years respectively.

Andrew Burns, 56, of Helensburgh, was given eight years, Robert Dalrymple, 43, of Gretna, seven years and James Elvin, 35, of Clydebank, six years.

The cocaine was concealed inside suitcases and holdalls flown by couriers into Prestwick, Glasgow and Newcastle airports.

At the High Court in Edinburgh, Blenkinsop received the longest term of 12 years.

Lord Doherty said it had been clear in evidence he was "one of the principals in a major cocaine distribution operation".

"Those who play leading roles in drug distribution operations involving class A drugs must expect to be dealt with severely by the courts," he said.

The judge said Harkins, who was jailed for just short of 10 years, had "played an equally important role" to Blenkinsop.

A term of nearly eight years was given to Burns with Dalrymple jailed for almost seven years and Elvin nearly six years.

After a five-week trial the men were all convicted of being concerned in the supply of cocaine in Scotland, England and Spain.

Blenkinsop was also convicted of being involved in the supply of cannabis and amphetamines while Harkins was found guilty of supplying amphetamines.

Dalrymple and Elvin were only convicted of being involved in the drugs operation as couriers in 2009.

Foreign currency award

Their trial heard that the gang was caught after another courier was detected trying to swap counterfeit £20 notes for euros at a Marks and Spencer bureau de change in Carlisle.

Image caption The court heard how the drugs were concealed inside suitcases

During the drugs operation, Blenkinsop was converting so much cash into euros to buy the drugs in Spain that his local post office won an award for selling foreign currency.

The sentences were welcomed by Stuart Cassidy, interim district procurator fiscal for Dumfries.

He said that the drugs had been destined for the streets of Glasgow but some had also been distributed in the Dumfries area.

"Drug trafficking at this level is of the utmost seriousness and the damage it does to our young people and Scotland's communities cannot be underestimated," he said.

"The Crown will continue to vigorously prosecute drug dealers, and will use every power available to disrupt their criminal enterprises and seize their assets."

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