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Burnley drugs pair in ‘worldwide operation’
A WORLDWIDE drugs scam operated through two Burnley terrace homes — which were claimed to be the bases of international chemical companies, a court was told.
Large blue barrels of benzocaine, commonly used as a cutting agent for cocaine, were delivered to the Burnley Wood homes of Mandy Hopkins and Christopher Pounder from drug manufacturers in China, Preston Crown Court heard.
Prosecutors allege the pair were ‘vital cogs’ in the drugs trade, allowing their homes to become fronts for ‘bogus’ chemical firms, before the benzocaine was transported to the Manchester drugs market.
After the barrels were delivered, Scott Grindley is accused of transporting the benzocaine to dealers in Middleton.
In the dock are Hopkins, 23, of Dall Street, and Grindley, 24, of Hollingreave Road, both Burnley; Clifford Hall, 31, of Whaddon Way, and Stephen Baylis, 31, of Kingston Avenue, both Milton Keynes. All four deny a charge of assisting in the supply of class A drugs.
Hall has also denied possession with intent to supply diazepam and another drug, methylethylcathinone, which were alleged to have been discovered at his home by police.
Pounder, 26, of Parkinson Street, Burnley, admitted the same charge before an estimated three-week trial.
Prosecutor Robert Golinksi said 600kgs of benzocaine, often in large blue barrels, were imported into the UK from China and delivered to private addresses in Burnley and Ripley in Derbyshire.
But he told the jury that the drug was often mislabelled, as another more innocent substance, and sent to ‘fake’ chemical companies in the two towns, before being transported on to Greater Manchester.
Hall and Baylis are said to have made the arrangements for the deliveries from China and two brothers, Darryl and Simon Walsh, were responsible for the delivery addresses, it is alleged.
The Walsh brothers, both from Middleton, have admitted assisting in the supply of class A drugs at a previous court hearing, jurors were told.
No fewer than six deliveries were made to the home of Hopkins between late 2010 and early 2011.
One delivery, weighing 27kgs, from the Shanghai Yunyun Chemical Corporation, was addressed to 'Chemstar Trading'.
The court heard she later told police that she had been asked to receive a number of deliveries by Pounder, and had sought reassurances that it was ‘not dodgy’.
But Mr Golinski said: “Anyone involved in this would have realised that this was not a legitimate business.”
Jurors heard that a number of consignments of benzocaine, including at least one destined for Hopkins’ home, were impounded by suspicious customs officials.
Prosecutors have told jurors that benzocaine is not a controlled drug.
Acting as a mild anaesthetic, it is used by dentists and vets in surgery.
Benzocaine is also an active ingredient in throat lozenges and cough drops but in its powdered form, there are few legitimate uses for the substance.
Benzocaine has the same numbing effect on nasal passages as cocaine, making it a popular ‘cutting agent’ with drug dealers.
Prosecutors allege that purchasing benzocaine in such quantities, and in such circumstances, can only mean it was bought for the cocaine trade.