MEMBERS of a drug gang, headed by a Mr Big from Bolton, have been jailed for a total of 59 years after they were caught importing more than £15 million worth of cannabis from Spain.

Scott Byrne arranged the movement of more than two and half tons of the drug to bogus bogus firms in the UK in shipments of kitchen parts and vegetables.

Legitimate transportation companies were used, unaware of the illicit substances they were carrying in the cargo in seven deliveries between July 2017 and November 2018.

Sentencing Byrne, aged 32, of Woodbridge Drive, Tonge Moore, to 14 years and two months in prison, Judge Michael Leeming told him: “You were at the very heart of the conspiracy, you were involved in every aspect of it.

“You were careful not to get your hands dirty and you recruited others."

Byrne was helped in the conspiracy by Wesley Kinsella, aged 31, of Crompton Way, Bolton and Michael Lawlor, aged 39, of Kempton Close, Bolton as well as Tony Cadman, aged 32, of Alder Avenue, Widnes and Lee Jackson, aged 38, of Bradmore Road, Wirral.

The cannabis was imported to the UK from Spain via the port of Dover.

Some of the drugs were concealed in packages labelled as oven filters and purported to be destined for a kitchen firm.

But the business didn’t exist and the address associated with it actually referred to a yard containing lock-up units behind a convenience store on Newton Road, Lowton where drugs worth £6.6 million were delivered.

Between September 2017 and August 2018 six further deliveries arrived through Dover with drugs concealed in pallets of lettuce and peppers.

Chorley Citizen:

These destined for a cold storage company in Newton Heath where £8.85 million worth of cannabis was received.

Officers stopped the sixth delivery in Dover on 12 August 2018 and uncovered 177kg of cannabis with a street value of more than £1.5 million.

Police raided the Lowton which was owned by Tony Cadman.

Further investigations linked it to Michael Lawler, Wesley Kinsella and a second lock-up at Hartford Works, Weston Street, Bolton.

In the lockup a stolen Mercedes which contained £20,000 worth of cannabis and led police to Lee James Jackson and Scott Byrne.

Meanwhile, enquiries found consignments were destined for onward delivery to Bog Farm in Mold, North Wales.

Police raided the farm and a concealed underground bunker designed to grow cannabis.

They arrested Michael Harley, who was living in a caravan on the farm, as well as Michael Moore, who was living in the farmhouse.

Harley admitted that the underground bunker was built at the farm three years previously but claimed that production there ceased shortly afterwards as it was too wet to grow cannabis.

Jackson was sentenced to nine years and four months in prison , Cadman to 12 years and Lawlor and Kinsella each to nine years behind bars.

Michael Harley, aged 35, and Michael Moore, 30, of Bog Farm in Mold, Wales were each jailed for 33 months.

Judge Leeming said: “The objective was obviously to flood the streets, pubs and clubs in the North West and other parts of the country with cannabis and the making of large amounts of money was the primary aim and motivation.

“This offending involved a complete disregard for the impact this sort of criminality has in our society.”