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Police investigation into £118m cocaine supply racket leads to sentences totalling more than 40 years

A criminal gang responsible for supplying drugs have been handed sentences totalling more than 40 years.

Yesterday, the last man to be sentenced as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the supply ring was jailed at Northampton Crown Court.

Andreas Leonidou, aged 35, of Stapleton Hall Road, Crouch End, London, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class C drugs before a trial was due to start last year. He was sentenced to 18 months.

And George Charalambous, aged 35, of Alexander Park Road, Muswell Hill, London, was charged with one count of conspiracy to supply Class C drugs. He was found guilty at trial last year and sentenced this April to two years imprisonment.

Leonidou and Charalambous’ criminal activity came to light during a major investigation by officers into a man named Daniel Taylor. While Leonidou and Charalambous were relatively minor players in the conspiracy, Taylor was involved in a large scale importation of Benzocaine.

Taylor, aged 44, of St Andrews Lane, Kettering, appeared at court in October 2016, having been convicted of nine counts of production and supply of Class A, B and C drugs following a trial.

While the original case began in October 2016, sentencing for Charalambous and Leonidou had been delayed due to a Newton hearing – held before a judge to determine which conflicting evidence is the truth - which took place at court this year.

Taylor was sentenced to 18 years for masterminding one of the largest ever illegal importations of Benzocaine into the UK. He was convicted of importing 2.7 tonnes of the cocaine cutting agent which would have given it an estimated street value of £118 million.

Between 2011 and 2014 Taylor placed numerous orders of Benzocaine – a cutting agent used to bulk out cocaine, from both UK and overseas companies. 

The scale of the operation was uncovered in early 2014 after Border Force intercepted a 300 kilogram shipment of Benzocaine from a company in China and destined for Acuchem Ltd - a company set up by Taylor. 

Taylor’s defence had been that he had sold most of the benzocaine to a man named Alexander Shennan, aged 65, of Roxton, Bedford, and that he believed it was to be used in the production of and within legal highs.

During the course of the investigation officers discovered Taylor was also sourcing and importing steroids to supply within the UK, to which Leonidou and Charalambous were connected.

Communications data linked Taylor to the importation, supply and purchase of anabolic steroids to and from James Lewis, aged 35, of Portland Road, Rushden. Lewis was previously known as Glenn Parkes, before he legally changed his name.

Shennan was found guilty at trial of four counts relating to the production and supply of Class A, B and C drugs, and sentenced to 19 years in prison in October 2016.

James Lewis pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to supply Class C drugs. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

Taylors wife, Jo-Ann Taylor, pleaded guilty to money laundering offences and was sentenced to 16 months in prison, suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.

Detective Constable Scott Allan, who led the investigation, said: “This was a complicated investigation that involved two years of detailed enquiries by Northamptonshire Police in collaboration with the National Crime Agency (NCA), Border Force, Bedfordshire and Met Police Forces.

“I would also like to thank the Crown Prosecution Service for presenting such a clear, comprehensive and persuasive case.

“The defendants in this case used the guise of legitimate companies to purchase, manufacture and sell controlled drugs, as well as cutting agents and pre-cursor chemicals used in the manufacture of Cocaine, Meth-Amphetamine and Anabolic Steroids, many of the items purchased where imported in from China.

“The criminal enterprise had been ongoing since early 2011, and had it not been for intervention initially from the NCA and Border Force and subsequent diligent and dedicated police work by the Organised Crime Team, I have no doubt their activity would have continued and the true enormity of the scale of drug activity would not have come to light.

“While sentencing had been delayed for some of the defendants due to legal proceedings, I am relieved that all have now received sentences and are behind bars.”

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