A DRUGS gang member from Nelson has been jailed for eight years for his role in a ring which sold cocaine across Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

Waseem Afzal, 32, was linked to a network which was masterminded by Lee Broadbent, from Poulton-le-Fylde, who was even able to control his narcotics empire while on the run in Spain.

Broadbent was spotted by undercover detectives carrying out a £130,000 cocaine deal in Blackpool back in October 2011, Preston Crown Court heard.

But while his partner-in-crime, Gary Gairns was detained in the Lancashire resort, Broadbent managed to flee the country to Malaga.

He was then able to continue to mastermind his drug-dealing on the Costa del Sol, via a mobile phone smuggled out by his girlfriend Jacqueline Thomas.

Afzal’s role was uncovered when detectives went through Broadbent’s mobile phone records, as part of Operation Oriole, undertaken by the Lancashire force’s serious and organised crime unit. He was found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Afzal, of Camden Street, had previously served a 21-month jail sentence for possession of cannabis with intent to supply after being found with five-and-a-half kilos of cannabis in the boot of his car in Nelson.

Raids were carried out on a number of Broadbent’s gang members in January 2012. Broadbent himself was finally detained and charged after being caught at a water park in Torremolinos, and was later extradited to the UK.

Broadbent, 33, of Mains Lane, Poulton, was given a 16-year jail sentence for being the head of the gang. His partner Thomas, also of Mains Lane, was given a two-year suspended sentence for money laundering.

Gairns, of Kittybert Avenue, Manchester, who admitted his role in the conspiracy was jailed for eight years. Jail terms totalling more than 50 years were handed out to Broadbent’s other lieutenants, based around Blackpool and Greater Manchester.

Det Chief Insp Graham Gallagher, of SOCU, speaking after the case, said: “I am pleased with (these) results that have come at the end of a long and complex investigation that has spanned well over two years.

“This gang, with Broadbent at its head, were responsible for the planning and importing of cocaine, with large street values, into the North West. I have no doubt that they planned to sell these drugs on within Lancashire and Manchester.”