A “GREEDY” businessman who laundered cash for a multimillion-pound international drugs gang has been jailed.
Michael Yates handled the money on behalf of a criminal network, whose members have been sentenced to more than 60 years behind bars for supplying amphetamine on a commercial scale.
One seizure alone was worth more than £55million, and it is believed there were about 18 more importations of a similar size.
Yates recruited his son, who is now serving more than two years for his involvement, to work as a foot soldier for the illegal empire and made sure he concocted cover stories in case he was caught.
He had regular meetings with the kingpins at the head of the conspiracy, who had links to criminal networks in the UK and abroad.
The former charity sector worker, who was involved with the Seaham Training Trust and Veterans Response, denied conspiracy to transfer criminal property but was convicted by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court, who rejected his series of lies he had hoped would mask his involvement in the drugs world.
Yates, of Fountains Close, Washington, was sentenced to seven and a half years in jail.
Judge Penny Moreland told him: “The conspiracy to supply amphetamine was on the most serious and commercial scale and very large sums of money were generated. Your role was to transfer criminal property generated by the conspiracy.
“You were deeply involved in the financial aspects of the drug dealing, motivated, it seems to me, by greed.
“You were trusted in regard to financial matters.
“You knew perfectly well where the money was coming from.
“You received a generous wage, thousands rather than hundreds of pounds.
“I take the view there were millions and millions of pounds being produced by the drugs conspiracy.
“You were paid a substantial wedge in order to launder at least part of that.”
The court heard Yates had led a “thoroughly decent life” prior to his involvement in the drugs trade.
The gang was arrested after officers from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit seized drugs worth more than £55m from a storage unit in North Yorkshire.
At a previous hearing, Yates’s son Andrew, 29, also of Fountains Close, Washington, was sentenced to two years and eight months after he pleaded guilty to money laundering.