Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Drugs empire kingpin gets 18 years

The leader of a drugs empire which imported almost £110 million worth of cocaine and cannabis into the UK so he could lead a "lavish lifestyle" has been jailed for 18 years.

Philip Baron, 58, was the kingpin in an international cartel which smuggled cocaine from South America to Spain and then to the UK. He imported two shipments of cocaine totalling 132lb (60kg), which had an estimated street value of £19.2 million, a sentencing hearing at Liverpool Crown Court was told.

Baron, who masqueraded as a legitimate businessman, also ran a sophisticated cannabis smuggling operation which was worth around £90 million.

Passing sentence, Judge David Aubrey QC said: "It was driven by avarice and greed. It was a trade and an empire and you cared not for the lives of others. You may have destroyed lives. It may have led people to commit crime. It may have led to despair and desperation. None of that concerned you. You were only concerned with yourself and leading a lavish lifestyle."

Baron was a leading figure in an international ring who owned yachts and sports cars as well as luxury villas in Spain, all funded by drug money. He admitted three counts including conspiracy to import cocaine between March and November 2008, conspiracy to import cannabis between September 2005 and September 2009, and money laundering.

On Wednesday, the court heard how Baron was nicknamed "Butlin''. William Baker, opening the case for the prosecution, told the court that a recording device had been placed in the home of the defendant's daughter, Rachel Baron.

Mr Baker said the device "recorded her saying her father was called Butlin because he had likened a Spanish prison he had been in to a holiday camp". It is understood that Baron spent time in a prison in Malaga, Spain, on drug-related charges. Rachel Baron was jailed for three years at an earlier hearing for picking up and distributing cash on her father's behalf, the court heard.

Baron was "one of the organisers of a highly sophisticated criminal enterprise that imported drugs to the UK", the court was told. Mr Baker said: "He was involved in the importation of 60kg of cocaine in two shipments in November 2008 and about 31,500kg (69,446lb) of cannabis in numerous shipments between 2005 and 2009."

Twenty-eight members of the gang have already been convicted and jailed.

Timothy Forte, defending Baron, said his client accepted that he had played an "organising and leading role". He said Baron was of previous good character and had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. Mr Forte said Baron had been making money from "the cannabis enterprise" and had "dipped his toe'' into the cocaine market when he was asked to come in by another drugs kingpin as a ''troubleshooter''.

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