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Issue:- 10 April 2014

Merseyside and Lancashire Gang Jailed over £71M drugs plot

THE National Crime Agency (NCA) on the 8 April 2014 announced to the media of their success following the sentencing of a fugitive drug trafficker involved in a plot to supply 400 kilos of cocaine in the UK. Ian Stanton, aged 43, from Liverpool, featured in the Operation Captura 'unlucky 13' campaign in November 2013.

The NCA operation was launched after 16 holdalls full of high quality cocaine, with a street value of £71m, were intercepted by Border Force officers in May 2013 at Tilbury Docks hidden in a container of frozen Argentinean beef.

The cocaine was replaced with dummy packages of bricks and the container was taken on a lorry to its end destination; a cold storage unit in Wigan. One of Stanton's criminal associates collected 2 holdalls, but later dumped them when he realised the drugs were not inside.

NCA officers proved Stanton was part of the crime group that planned a violent mission to recover the cocaine, not knowing it had been seized by law enforcement. Officers watched and listened as Stanton met with members of the group at the Aintree Retail Park. They discussed the use of physical and sexual violence against anyone who had information.

Stanton was captured at a house in Rotterdam by a team of officers from the Dutch Police. Over 20,000 Euros, a drug press and numerous mobile phones were recovered. He was extradited and later pleaded guilty to the conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Greg McKenna, NCA Branch Commander, said:- "Stanton was a fugitive who thought he could evade capture and continue drug trafficking, but we tracked him down and now he's behind bars where he belongs. This amount of cocaine could have caused devastating damage had the crime group succeeded. They were willing to use extreme violence, but as a result of close working with our national and international partners their plan failed."

3 of Stanton's criminal associates from Liverpool; James Mossman, aged 37, Gary Keating, aged 29, and Francis Oakford, aged 47; were previously sentenced to a total of 20 years.

Stanton, Mossman and Keating all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, while Oakford pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail.

Anthony Short, aged 40, from Creston, Lancashire, who purchased the cover load of beef, was also sentenced on 8 April 2014 and received 22 years. He was found guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine following a 3 week trial.

A financial investigation is now underway.

Officers also want to question Liverpool men Anthony Saunderson and David McDermott in connection with the cocaine seizure. Both were at the Aintree Retail Park meeting. If anyone has information on their whereabouts please contact Crimestoppers on:- 0800 555 111 or the NCA on:- 0370 496 7622.

These are stills taken from video footage taken of the container.

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