Gang ran £5 million cannabis empire from Leeds lock-up

Darren Stewart.

Darren Stewart.

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Members of a drugs gang who ran a multi-million pound cannabis importation racket from a Leeds city centre lock-up have been jailed for more than 13 years.

The warehouse in Mabgate was a base to distribute £5m worth of drugs imported from Holland in dummy oil drums, Leeds Crown Court heard.

Chris Hill.

Chris Hill.

Border Agency customs officers discovered more than 170 kilos of cannabis worth £900,000 crammed inside lead-lined drums on a legitimate haulier’s truck coming through Harwich docks from Holland last October.

Officers alerted West Yorkshire Police who arranged for the haul to be delivered intact to its intended destination in Mabgate.

Police armed with a search warrant swooped after the delivery had been signed for.

Jacek Wlodek, 30, of Moor Allerton Crescent, tried to flee across rooftops but was caught. Darren Stewart, 29, of Wetherby Road, Roundhay, was arrested trying to hide among rolls of carpets.

Enquiries led detectives to arrest Kieran Walsh, 30, of Parkside Crescent, Seacroft, and Christopher Hill, 31, of Stainbeck Lane, Chapel Allerton.

Prosecutor, Michael Smith said five previous deliveries of cannabis in oil drums had been successful. He said the total weight of cannabis imported was around 60kg with a street value of £5m.

When police raided Stewart’s home they discovered 3kg of skunk cannabis worth £25,000. He was on bail for illegally possessing a stun gun and sawn-off rifle when he was arrested for the drugs offences.

Mr Smith said: “It seems this was the Leeds franchise of this operation which Hill managed by enlisting others.” All four men admitted conspiracy to import cannabis.

Hill was jailed for four-and-a-half years. Stewart, who also admitted two firearms charges, was jailed for seven years. Wlodek, who also admitted drink-driving and perverting justice, was jailed for two years. Restaurant chef Walsh, whose role was to rent the lock-up, was handed a 51-week jail sentence suspended for two years plus 200 hours unpaid community work.

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