A smuggler who helped ship cannabis into the UK in flower boxes from Holland has been jailed after an international crime squad cracked the country’s ‘biggest ever conspiracy’ to import the drug. Edwin Van Winsen was sentenced to four years in prison for his part in the operation, which used a flower import company as a cover to get an estimated £150m pounds worth of the drug from the Netherlands to the UK. Between June and October 2008, the Dutch national helped ship over £73m pounds worth of the drug into the country. When travelling between the UK and the Netherlands the ‘flashy’ smuggler would travel in an Audi A6, and be surrounded by women as he drank champagne on the ferry.Winsen, 33, is the final man from the syndicate to be jailed after trials for other ‘executives’ from the sophisticated scheme were held last year. The international investigation spanned Western and Eastern Europe, from the UK, Ireland, Holland, France, Germany, Italy and the Ukraine and saw the Force working closely with West Mercia Police, the Dutch and German authorities and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). Prosecuting at Leeds Crown Court on Monday, Andrew Kershaw said: ‘Mr Van Winsen was concerned with organising and taking 52 deliveries. ‘It is estimated he was involved in the total import of around 8,580kg of the drug which has an estimated street value of £73.5m pounds. ‘The drugs were hidden in flower boxes and were delivered to auction houses across West Yorkshire where they were transported to various storage premises. ‘They were then picked up by drivers from across the country in rented vans often within minutes of being dropped off.’
The court heard Van Winsen was given an Audi A6 to drive while he worked on the scheme and was also said to be extravagant with his cash. He was once spotted by another member of the syndicate on a ferry from the UK to the Netherlands buying champagne for cash from a large bundle and enjoying the company of five women. Ringleader Johannes Elmendorp, 51, was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment in August last year. The Dutch national was the sole director of Fresh Flower Concept Ltd, a UK registered company which distributed the consignments to Leeds, Bradford and Birmingham. He, along with Van Winsen, organised the delivery of the airtight bags of cannabis hidden in boxes of fresh flowers which bona fide transport companies delivered to addresses in the UK from four addresses in West Yorkshire, before operations were switched to the West Midlands when Dutch police seized three loads intended for the UK. During investigations conducted by West Yorkshire Police, West Mercia Police and the Dutch authorities, it was established that a total of 102 deliveries were made to the UK with an estimated total weight of 16.8 tonnes, which police estimate equates to almost £150m pounds in street value. West Yorkshire Police had begun surveillance at Oak Mill in Morley, Leeds, after being alerted about suspicious activities in October 2008 after Van Winsen had organised to have the drugs delivered there. Mitigating for Van Winsen, Damien Nolan said: ‘He was asked to be involved in this scheme on no less than three occasions but he refused.
‘He had been having financial problems with a company of which he was the director and it was this which made him take up the offer to become involved by one of the ringleaders. ‘He was eventually caught by police but had already left the operation as he knew it was the wrong thing to be involved with.’ Judge Sally Cahill sentenced Van Winsen, of Sassenheim, Netherlands, to four years minus the 340 days he has already spent on remand.Terence Koetsier, 22, of Rotterdam, Netherlands, who was arrested in Gran Canaria in January last year, was jailed for two years after a jury found him guilty of conspiracy to import and supply cannabis last August. Arie Menno Van Esch, 30, of Wihk en Aalburg, Netherlands, organised the delivery of the flower boxes containing cannabis and controlled the onward distribution to UK crime groups. He was jailed for six years in August for his 16 week involvement. Five other men were found not guilty on any conspiracy charge at the trials. West Yorkshire Police’s Organised Crime Group commenced their investigation – codenamed Operation Gosforth – in October 2008. Detective Chief Inspector Simon Beldon of the Force’s Crime Division, said today: ‘Today marks the end of a very long and complex investigation which has resulted in the disruption of an international criminal drugs gang. ‘A staggering amount of Cannabis was brought into the UK as a result of this criminal enterprise and I am delighted that the painstaking work of the detectives has paid off and the individuals involved are behind bars where they belong.’
via : Daily Mail
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