South East Wales

Cynon and Rhondda Valleys gang jailed over £1.7m cannabis hidden in pillars

sandstone pillars used to conceal drugs
Image caption The drugs were intercepted in Barcelona, Spain, en route to south Wales

Six members of a drugs gang who tried to flood south Wales with cannabis have been jailed for a total of 23 years at Newport Crown Court.

The operation involved £1.7m worth of cannabis resin, hidden in sandstone pillars which were then transported from Spain.

But in an international police sting, the drugs were removed and the gang followed back to the Cynon Valley.

Four other members of the gang received suspended sentences.

The sentences followed a six-year sentence handed to the London-based gang leader, Keith Dobson, in February.

At Newport Crown Court on Friday, the man identified as the key co-ordinator in south Wales, Ryan Davies, from Ystrad, Rhondda was also given a six-year prison term.

Other members of the team included the lorry driver in the operation, Barry Roy Butler, from Kent, who was given a five year sentence.

Lengthy sentences were also handed down to other members of the gang, who came from Mountain Ash, Ystrad, Porth and Aberdare.

Mark Joseph Waugh, who was supposed to look after the drugs on arrival in Wales, was jailed for four years, alongside known dealer, Christian O'Reilly, who also received a four-year sentence.

Geraint Locke, who helped with arranging delivery of the cannabis, was jailed for two years, while Craig Harris, a friend and neighbour of Ryan Davies, was given a 14 months in prison.

Local drug dealer David Clarke was told he must serve a nine-month sentence.

They were convicted after a year-long investigation led by South Wales Police, called Operation Scheat.

The police inquiries began in March 2011 when Spanish customs teams found the stash of more than 400kg of cannabis stashed in hollowed out sandstone pillars.

Image caption The pillars had been hollowed out and filled with drugs

The drugs gang was unaware that they had been uncovered, and were allowed to continue with the smuggling operation.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency worked with the police to track the consignment as it headed to a a barn on a farm off Cefn Pennar Road in Mountain Ash.

It was then that the smugglers realised what had happened, but three of them were immediately arrested, leading to the capture of the rest of the gang.

After the case, senior investigating officer, Det Ch Insp Paul Hurley said: "We've dismantled a sophisticated and organised group who tried to flood Valleys communities with illegal drugs.

"They were organised, but fell prey to some excellent investigative work which included the latest techniques and spanned a number of different agencies from as far away as Spain, where the drugs were initially discovered."

Other members of the gang, Craig Michael Clarke and Roxanne Morgan received suspended sentences, while Stephen John Davies was given a two-year supervision order.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites