Fireman hailed as July 7 bomb hero jailed for role in £100m cocaine ring

A HERO fireman honoured for rescuing victims of one of the July 7 bombs has been jailed for 14 years for his role in a £100m cocaine ring.

Simon Ford, 41, won a London Fire Brigade Gold Award for risking his life to get victims off the bus blown up in Tavistock Square during the suicide attacks on the capital in 2005.

But the former drug addict is now serving a jail term after admitting he was a key player in a sprawling network of underworld crime gangs responsible for flooding south-east England with drugs.

His case can now be reported for the first time after the final member of the 35-strong drugs and money laundering gang was sentenced yesterday at Southwark Crown Court and legal restrictions were lifted.

A total of 33 criminals linked to the operation have been sentenced to more than 200 years in prison for offences including conspiracy to supply cocaine, money laundering and firearms offences.

The court heard how ringleaders netted more than 100m in cash via heavily fortified taxi garage under the Westway in Paddington, central London.

Royal Oak Taxis received huge consignments of cocaine ready for repackaging and distribution and served as a money laundering shop for crooks who swapped sterling for euro notes.

Ford was one of 22 people arrested when officers from Scotland Yard's Special Intelligence Section supported by more than 500 colleagues, raided homes across London and the Home Counties in February 2008.

The simultaneous raids, the largest conducted by British police, followed 10 months of surveillance and bugging.

The Soho-based firefighter was caught red-handed at his flat in Chertsey, as he divided more than 100 kilos of cocaine, worth about 5.5m, for delivery to a ring of couriers waiting at service stations around the M25.

A second man, cage fighter Aman Salhan, 28, of Harlington, west London, was also found in the flat. He was jailed for 17 years after a jury found him guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine.

The gang's main banker, Iraq-born Maythen Al Ansari, 42, was jailed for three years for money laundering. Anwar Laraba, 39, of St John's Wood, the final gang member to sentenced, was jailed for four years and eight months yesterday after admitting conspiracy to supply cannabis.