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Gang Member Jailed Over Drug Plot

Wednesday March 7 2012

A BARNSLEY man has been jailed for his part in a drug conspiracy that sought to import five tonnes of cocaine into the UK.

Robert Rich, 40, of Burton Road, Barnsley, visited Colombia to help organise the plot. He appeared in court along with three other men on Friday and was jailed for 14 years for his part in the conspiracy.

The plot to import the drugs failed as the gang were being monitored by the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which gathered evidence including from coded conversations about the conspiracy which the gang referred to as a 'plastering job'.

Mr Rich travelled to Colombia trying to set up the deal, which collapsed when the Colombian contact was gunned down by members of a rival cartel.

He was not aware that Soca investigators were on his trail and were collecting photographs of him - as well as listening to the group's conversations. The picture of him in the South American country was used as part of the evidence against him.

The ringleader was Russell Knaggs, 38, of Doncaster, who was serving time for drug trafficking and orchestrated the scheme from his prison cell. He was sentenced to 20 years at Birmingham Crown Court.

The gang had planned to have the drugs shipped from Columbia to the UK via Costa Rica, America and Germany. In Hamburg the load was to be split into smaller packages and smuggled into the UK hidden inside cars.

When it failed further attempts were made but Knaggs eventually called off the plot.

Also sentenced were Philip Hadley, of Doncaster, given 18 years and Anthony Perger, of Sheffield, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years six months.

Soca investigator Gerry Smyth said:“Knaggs believed he could continue business from behind bars but no-one should think they are beyond reach.

"Soca and its partners will use their expertise and determination to stamp down hard on organised criminals, regardless of where they operate."

This photograph of Mr Rich in Colombia was used as evidence against him.

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