A YORKSHIRE drug baron who led a complex heroin and cocaine-smuggling ring from his luxury mansion in Thailand was today jailed for 20 years alongside five other members of his gang.
Craig Allen, from the Parson Cross area of Sheffield, was described as “the lynch pin of a global drugs conspiracy and one of the most significant drugs traffickers ever prosecuted” in the region.
The 50-year-old, operating from Thailand and later Amsterdam, used more than 18 different mobile phones to evade detection in what prosecutors say was “a spider’s web of buyers, importers, and suppliers of massive quantities” of Class A drugs.
He was jailed for 20 years today at Sheffield Crown Court after admitting conspiracy to distribute Class A Drugs, while three other men and one woman were sentenced to a total of 41 years in jail.
O’Neil Richard Davidson, 36, of Wellington Road, Stockport, was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty on April 15.
Steven Hudson, 43, of Ellesmere Road, Sheffield, received a nine-year jail sentence after pleading guilty on April 22.
Selena Nickels, 45, of Scotia Drive, Sheffield, was also sentenced to six years behind bars after she pleaded guilty in February.
The fourth man, Leroy Grant, of Cornbrook Grove, Manchester, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs following a two-week trial. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Brian Wayne Saunders, 48, of East Glade Place, Sheffield, entered a guilty plea in February but will be sentenced at a later date.
Detectives said Craig Allen, whose convictions date back to 1975 and was cleared of the murder of music promoter Lester Divers in Walkley in 2003, ‘thought he was above the law’.
Allen’s drugs operation made him £5,000 a week to spend on life in a luxury mansion with a swimming pool in Thailand, with his Thai wife and child.
But his empire crumbled when he was arrested at gunpoint outside Ikea in Amsterdam during a joint operation between British and Dutch police last October, and extradited to the UK.
When police searched his Dutch flat they found three kilos of cocaine, a kilo of heroin, and 500,000 Euros in cash.
The four-year police investigation into the gang as a whole began in May 2010, when a 42-year-old man was stopped near junction 37 of the M1 motorway. In his car, officers discovered 17.5 kilos of heroin and two mobile phones.
Analysis of two seized mobile phones revealed the man had been acting as a courier for Allen, dubbed ‘the ginger ninja’ and the ‘little fella’, who was co-ordinating the distribution of the heroin from his home in Thailand.
A number of targeted police operations followed throughout 2010 and 2011, which resulted in the seizure of a further two-and-a-half kilos of heroin and over two kilos of cocaine.
Over the course of the investigation, officers seized 24 kilos of Class A drugs, worth an estimated £1.85m, as well as 500,000 Euros in cash.
Detective Inspector Craig Jackson from South Yorkshire Police, who led the investigation, said Allen was “a sophisticated international drug trafficker who was directly responsible for the supply of Class A drugs onto the streets of South Yorkshire and across the UK”.
He said: “Much of Allen’s criminality was orchestrated from Thailand and the Netherlands and was undertaken by his UK based co-defendants in a highly organised manner.
“I think the perception is that men like Allen, who sit at the top of organised crime groups, are untouchable, but this case shows that they are anything but.
“South Yorkshire Police has had significant success in dismantling groups linked to Allen but our ultimate objective was always to repatriate him back to the UK to face trial for his crimes.
“Working in partnership with the National Crime Agency and our Dutch colleagues, this was achieved when he was arrested in Amsterdam and found to be in possession of significant amounts of Class A drugs and cash.”
Roger Woodward, Senior Crown Prosecutor in the Complex Casework Unit, CPS Yorkshire and Humberside said: “Craig Allen was an international criminal – the lynch pin of a global drugs conspiracy and one of the most significant drugs traffickers we have ever prosecuted in Yorkshire and Humberside.
“The case was the culmination of five different police operations – four in South Yorkshire and one in North Wales, which together generated over four thousand pages of evidence to present to the court.
“These revealed that Allen, operating from Thailand and then Amsterdam, and using over 18 different mobile telephones to evade detection, was at the heart of a spider’s web of buyers, importers, and suppliers of massive quantities of heroin and cocaine.
“During the course of the investigation, 22 kilos of drugs and almost half a million Euros were seized – but this is very likely to have been the tip of the iceberg.
“The fact that he pleaded guilty is testament to the strength of the case we were able to build against him – and thanks in no small part to the diligence and persistence of the police investigations.
“He has now been sentenced to 20 years and we are actively pursuing proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
“The streets of our towns and cities are safer now that this dangerous criminal is behind bars.”