THE man at the head of an international £7m drugs ring is behind bars.
Sandro Farini masterminded a “sophisticated conspiracy” to bring vast quantities of rare, 100 per cent pure amphetamine sulphate into the UK from Europe.
The 47-year-old, of Newbottle, who was under surveillance by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, was heard bragging he expected to make up to £15m through his illegal dealings.
At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday Farini and his right hand man Jaswinder Sahota were jailed for seven years each.
Their “trusted lieutenant” Ian Henderson, of Ashbrooke, was jailed for four years and 11 months.
Haulage boss Jeffrey Robson, who arranged the gang’s transportation needs, was jailed for five years and nine months.
Courier David Stacey was locked up for three-and-a-half years.
Judge John Evans told them: “This was undoubtedly a sophisticated conspiracy.
“All the traditional methods of criminal endeavour were employed; use of pre-paid mobile phones, sometimes for no more than one critical call before being discarded, use of public phone boxes, communication language, coded messages.”
The judge said the drugs at the heart of the investigation were “responsible for so much misery on these streets”.
The court heard the men were arrested after Robson was caught with liquid amphetamine, worth £5.28m on the streets. It was found stored in six 10 litre containers in the cabin of his lorry at Coquelles in France last October.
A second seizure was made in February during an exchange between Henderson and Stacey at a car park in Doxford Park, Sunderland of £2.04m worth, which had been brought in from the continent by one of Robson’s unsuspecting employees.
The gang had been under surveillance by specialist undercover officers who had tracked them using 13 different phone boxes in the North East to organise their deals with contacts in Belgium and Holland. Adrian Strong, prosecuting, said: “The two seizures represent an ongoing business, led by Farini and Sahota.
“They had contacts in Belgium and Holland and there was a well practiced procedures of communication to arrange money to be taken to the continent and drugs to be brought back to the UK.”
The judge told Farini and Sahota: “The two of you were heard in excited contemplation of the prospect of rewards of between £10m and £15m.”
The court heard police were listening in when Farini met with Sahota at Ramside Hall, Durham, and heard them talking about large sums of money.
Farini, of Grange View, Newbottle, Sahota, 47, of Keats Avenue, Derby and Robson, 47, of Desford Green, Middlesbrough, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import a Class B drug.
Henderson, 44, of Willow Green, Ashbrooke, and Stacey, 42, of Whitegate Drive, Blackpool, admitted conspiracy to supply a controlled drug.
The court heard the men had all led what appeared to be respectable lives, held down decent jobs and did not have criminal records.
As part of the sentences Judge Evans issued travel restriction orders in the cases of Farini and Sahota, banning them from leaving the country for two years after their release.
Prosecutors have launched proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act in respect of all five men.