Dealers Hugh Webb, Michael Malone and Danny Malone and Martin Merritt jailed after £8.5m drugs ring smashed
Four men have been jailed for a total of 24 years for their involvement in a massive drugs conspiracy.
Lorry driver Hugh Webb, brothers Michael and Danny Malone and Martin Merritt were arrested after police crushed two attempts at distributing cannabis.
Officers swooped on a country lane in Ashford and seized 1,701 kilos of the drug said to be worth up to £8.5 million on the street - one of the biggest in Kent.
Top row Danny Malone and Hugh Webb. Bottom row Martin Merritt, Michael Malone
Four days earlier 200 kilos of cannabis worth £200,000 wholesale was confiscated in Paddock Wood.
Danny Malone, 44, said to be at the heart of the supply chain in both, was sentenced to eight years, Michael Malone, 46, to six years, and Merritt, 40, and 53-year-old Webb five years each.
Webb, of Standfield Gardens, Dagenham, Essex, denied conspiracy to supply cannabis but was convicted.
Sandy Lane, Great Chart in Ashford, where some of the drugs were seized
Michael Malone, of Rutland Road, Hove, East Sussex, Danny Malone, of Collier Street, Tonbridge, and Merritt, of Grosvenor Road, Dagenham, all admitted the offence.
Marek Sieprawski, of Gladstone Drive, Oldbury, West Midlands, denied the charge in relation to Paddock Wood and was acquitted.
Merritt, described as “the muscle” at Paddock Wood, admitted possessing an offensive weapon, a knuckleduster.
Maidstone Crown Court heard Danny Malone rented a unit at Daniels Water Farm in Great Chart, Ashford, in February. His brother told the owner on March 7 he wanted to unload the unit.
Drugs stashed inside metal boxes in a lorry
A lorry arrived the next day driven by Webb along with a Mercedes.
Two large containers were loaded onto it and Webb drove off, followed by the car driven by Malone with Merritt as a passenger.
Officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate pounced, stopping the lorry in nearby Sandy Lane on the A28.
The jury was shown video film of the Glen Gibbard Transport lorry and containers.
Some of the huge haul of cannabis resin found by police
Some boxes from the lorry
Webb told officers: “I am just doing a job. My boss doesn’t know I am doing this.” He added there was a “monkey” (£500) in his jacket in payment.
The cannabis in the boxes was valued at just over £2 million wholesale but between £4.89 million and £8.5 million on the street.
The other seizure was on March 4 near Paddock Wood railway station.
Officers moved in as Danny Malone and Sieprawski, 34, arrived in separate vans and stopped in a lay-by in Queen Street.
“This was one of the biggest drug seizures of its kind in Kent, and the sheer quantities of cannabis resin and their monetary value show how serious this operation was" - DS Andy Nicoll
Sieprawski had driven from the West Midlands to make the delivery. He claimed he thought the packages contained cigarettes.
Passing sentence, Judge Charles Byers said: “Make not mistake about it, cannabis is a dangerous drug. Inevitably, sentences have to be high, because those who deal in drugs deal in other people’s misery.”
DS Andy Nicoll said: “This was one of the biggest drug seizures of its kind in Kent and the sheer quantities of cannabis resin and their monetary value show how serious this operation was.
“We don’t yet know if these drugs were destined for the streets of Kent or further afield, but this investigation and seizure of a large quantity of drugs has hit the drugs network of Kent hard.
“Today’s sentencing sends a clear message – drugs will not be tolerated in Kent and we will do everything in our power to catch those responsible for supplying drugs and bring them to justice.”
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