AN international drugs trio have been jailed for a total of 26 years today for their roles in the largest ever conspiracy to import and supply skunk cannabis in the UK, worth £150 million.
A total of eight Dutch nationals appeared before Leeds Crown Court for a 10 week trial with three of the men hearing how they will spend time behind bars for their roles in the conspiracy to import and supply cannabis to other criminal gangs within the UK, delivering the drugs into Morley.
Using legitimate business fronts, the trio were involved in buying boxes of fresh flowers at auction and hid the drugs inside before using legitimate haulage companies to transport the boxes from Holland to England.
After several months of investigation by West Yorkshire Police’s Organised Crime Unit, it was established that between June and October 2008, the gang had orchestrated 52 deliveries of cannabis, disguised within flower boxes, to storage premises at Oak Mill on Topcliffe Lane, Morley, Pepper Road, Hunslet and The Iron Works in Bradford.
Johannes Elmendorp, 51, of Vandans, Austria, was said to be the organiser of the operation in the UK and the sole director of Fresh Flower Concept Ltd, a UK registered company for whom consignments were destined for, to be distributed to the sites.
Jailing him for 18 months, Judge Sally Cahill QC said he was “at the centre” of the conspiracies.
She said: “You were seen by the police in October 2008 at Oak Mill and you were seen with your hand in the boxes, overseeing what was happening.
“You were very much in charge.”
She said that after police seizures in Leeds, the operation was then moved to Birmingham.
She said: “The Leeds operation became too hot and you moved the operation to Birmingham. There you controlled the transport and the premises.
“You knew throughout these conspiracies in 2008 and 2009 there were two deliveries a week and you knew there was a large amount of cannabis - a total amount of £140 million.
“In respect of your involvement, you were a pivotal part in what was happening. You were a senior figure. You were in control.”
Terence Koetsier, 23, of Rotterdam, Netherlands, was responsible for taking delivery of most of the shipments in West Yorkshire and supplying them to organised crime groups from Leeds, Birmingham and London.
Sentencing him to two years, Judge Cahill said: “You were 19 years of age at the time of the offences. You had no employment and were just drifting in life.
“You thought this would provide you with a future, but you did not know the full extent.
“But at the time of Oak Mill you must have known what was going on. You were a very foolish young man.”
She went on to say: “Without your involvement it would have still have taken place. You were used, in my view.”
Arie Menno van Esch, 30, of Wijk en Aalburg, Netherlands, organised the delivery of the flower boxes containing cannabis and controlled the onward distribution to UK based organised crime groups.
Jailing his for six years, the judge said he was involved with the conspiracy for 16 weeks, dealing with two deliveries a week, which totalled an estimated £35 million.
She said: “You were fully aware of cannabis and have a previous conviction for the production of cannabis.”
She added: “I am satisfied that you were not one of the main organisers, but you were a trusted employee. After the seizures, you got out of the country straight away. You were fully involved.”
Jacob Schreuders, 38, and Edilson Dos Santos, 24, were both cleared by the jury of conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of class C and conspiracy to evade prohibition on importation of a controlled drug of class C.
Jonathan Elmendorp, 29, Theodorus Klassen, 60, and Sajid Mahmood, 35, of Birmingham, were cleared of conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of class B and conspiracy to evade prohibition on the importation of a controlled drug of class B.
**See next week’s paper for the full story, pictures and background.