Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Trio jailed for smuggling £850k cannabis haul in orange juice cartons

Three men convicted of smuggling £850,000 of cannabis into Northern Ireland in pallets of orange juice have been jailed.

The Birmingham men Stephen Dainty, 54, of Pool Farm Road, Alcocks Green, Mark Fleetwood, 53, of Dingleside, Hall Green and Paul Green, 63, Weatherfield Road, Tysley were sentenced at Newry Crown Court on Tuesday last, following an investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The case against the organised crime gang had centred on a surveillance operation carried out by the PSNI, National Crime Agency (NCA) and Garda in April 2015 which uncovered a white transit van in Camlough with almost £1m worth of class B drugs hidden inside pallets of orange juice.

The 167kg drugs shipment had been tracked through Spain, England and Ireland. The van was driven from Damolly Retail Park in Newry on April 23rd last year and brought to a unit in Camlough where the drugs were loaded onto it, before returning to the meeting point at the retail park.

Both Fleetwood and Green pleaded guilty to importing a class B drug and possession of a class B drug with intent to supply while the group’s fixer, Stephen Dainty, was jailed for importing a Class B drug.

Dainty is reportedly linked to a Spanish food transporting business which helped to provide a bogus company name of ‘PNG-FOODS-Newry’ in order to ship pallets of orange juice cartons into Northern Ireland, with the drugs hidden among them.  He had rented a unit in the retail park, organised the delivery of the consignment and arranged for the two co-accused to travel from Birmingham to Newry to pick up the drugs.

All three men were sentenced to 14 months in jail and 14 months on licence.

Rob Burgess from the NCA revealed the surveillance operation had caught Mark Fleetwood and Paul Green with “a substantial amount of cannabis resin which, if sold on, would have generated significant cash to potentially fund more criminality.”

“We are grateful for the support of PSNI in disrupting the group’s activities and ensuring the drugs did not make it to the streets of Northern Ireland.

“The NCA will continue to work in partnership to protect Northern Ireland from criminals who try to exploit borders and bring them to justice.”