City dealers linked to £3.5bn plot

A shipment of the chemical cutting agents intwercepted by SOCA.
A shipment of the chemical cutting agents intwercepted by SOCA.
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ONE of Edinburgh’s most notorious crime gangs, which flooded the streets of the Capital with cocaine, was linked to a £3.5 billion drugs conspiracy in England, it was revealed today.

The Inch-based gang led by jailed Mark Richardson bought cutting agents shipped from China and India as part of the UK’s biggest-ever chemical smuggling racket.

The chemicals, brought into the country by English crime bosses, were used by the city gangsters to mix with cocaine to double their profits by reducing its purity.

Richardson’s chief lieutenant, ex-soldier David Togher, was snared by detectives investigating the Edinburgh ties with the Yorkshire gang, with officers seizing cutting agents at the time of his arrest.

These links emerged after three men were convicted of leading the drug-cutting ring at Leeds Crown Court on Tuesday.

Jamie Dale, 32, John Cawley, 31, and Barry Hartley, 63, were found guilty of conspiracy to supply after a trial heard that they imported more than 36 tonnes of cutting agents.

The value of their scam was put at more than £3.5bn – the amount by which these agents helped inflate drug profits.

A police spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police carried out an operation into the distribution of cocaine, which was being cut with a bulking agent.

“Between 2007 and 2009, detectives investigated a crime group operating in the south side of Edinburgh with known links to criminal fraternities in England.

“As a result of these enquiries, David Togher was arrested and charged under the Misuse of Drugs Act and large quantities of the cutting agent were recovered.”

Togher pleaded guilty at Edinburgh High Court last year and was sentenced to more than five years in jail.

The police operation seized more than £450,000 of cocaine over a six-month period while targeting the gang and resulted in at least 66 arrests.

John Wright, senior investigator from the Serious Organised Crime Agency, said: “The trade in cutting agents is a major enabler of criminal activity, generating huge profits for drug dealers.”

The English gang regularly used a dummy front company to purchase chemicals for supposedly legitimate purposes.

The scale of the operation was so large that during the three years the gang operated, they imported a fifth of the world’s demand for benzocaine, used normally to treat sunburn, insect bites and dental treatment.