A BUSINESSMAN was 'a wholesale dealer' for a highly sophisticated drug-trafficking gang that flooded the north with drugs worth more than £25m.

Richard Stead, who owned part of the company that leased town centre pubs and clubs Retro, Chambers, Igloo and Voudou, is on trial at Sheffield Crown Court and denies two counts of conspiracy to supply class A and class B drugs between June 1, 2010 and August 17, 2012.

After his bars were raided last August, they have since been taken over and are now run by different people.

Prosecutor, David Brooke, said Stead, 45, of Stairfoot, was 'high up the chain' in the criminal outfit.

Mr Brooke alleges Stead brought kilos of cocaine, MCat and Class B drugs into South Yorkshire.

He said conversations recorded by the police during covert surveillance show Stead talking about selling cocaine, MCat and cannabis, and the prosecution say he was also recorded speaking about the cost of barrels of cutting agents used to dilute cocaine.

Mr Brooke said nine people have already pleaded guilty to their part in the set-up, including Shafton's Paul Robinson.

Mr Brooke said up to 200kg cocaine was imported from Mexico, over two years, concealed in the hydraulic arms of scissor lifts.

At its height, the gang turned over between £400,000 to £500,000 in a month, he said.

The gang's activities came to light when South Yorkshire Police launched a large-scale investigation in August 2011 after they witnessed a drug exchange in a Rawmarsh lay-by involving half a kilo of 80 per cent pure cocaine - which had a street value of about £40,000.

The trial, expected to last six weeks, continues.