A Corby man has been jailed for more than eight years for being part of an international drugs gang.
Michael Li, 48, of Fieldfare Close, was handed a sentence of eight years and four months by a judge at Newcastle Crown Court last week after a police investigation which saw £55m of drugs seized.
He, along with three other Northamptonshire men, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply drugs.
In 2012, a specialist unit launched an investigation into the large-scale distribution and supply of drugs by an organised crime gang operating in the North East of England.
The gang, which had criminal links across the UK and abroad, would dupe removal companies into importing the drugs into the UK for them.
Police investigating the gang seized 30kg of heroin and 408kg of amphetamines from a storage unit in North Yorkshire – as well as about £500,000 in cash.
Alongside Li, county men David Faulkener, 54, of Belfry Lane in Collingtree, Northampton, Darren Herbert, of Marshleys Court in Northampton, and David Drew, 48, of Woodside Avenue in Northampton, were also jailed.
Faulkener and Drew were each sentenced to six years, with Herbert being jailed for five years.
The ringleader, Michael Watts, 48, of Bedeburn Road in Jarrow, was jailed for 10 years and two months.
His right-hand man Neil Hoban, 52, of Casson Way in Stockton, was given a sentence of eight years and five months.
All six men had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class B drugs.
Meanwhile, Kevin Christopher Murray, 39, of Weaverthorpe Road in Nottingham, was sentenced to 11 years after being found guilty of the same offence.
Andrew Yates, 28, of Fountains Close in Washington, Tyne and Wear, was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison.
Abdur Rahman Khan, 38, of Balmoral Close in Slough, was jailed for three years and two months. Both Yates and Khan pleaded guilty to money laundering.
Aaron Nesbitt, 28, of Manor Way in Stillington, North Yorkshire, had previously been sentenced to 14 years in prison and Kirk Anderson, 37, of Etherley Walk in Stockton, to ten years after each earlier pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply.
The North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU), which ran the investigation into the gang, is run jointly by Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria police forces. NERSOU also worked in collaboration with the East Midlands Special Operations Unit during the investigation.
Detective Superintendent Tim Walker, from NERSOU, said the operation had been launched to disrupt the activity of a group operating in the North East, throughout the country and abroad.
He added: “More than £50 million worth of drugs were seized from a storage unit in North Yorkshire which were clearly destined for distribution in communities not just across the North East but farther afield.
“Not only that, a substantial amount of cash was found stored in holdalls when a car was stopped and searched.
“This group were responsible for importing drugs from Europe, under the guise of transporting furniture – duping legitimate removal companies, who were unaware of their illegal activities, to import their drugs.
“These were then transported to a storage facility in Nottingham before being taken to a storage facility in North Yorkshire.
“This investigation saw a number of key events that led to today’s sentences. People in this crime group have travelled throughout the country and abroad to undertake their criminal activities – not only has this investigation seen a huge amount of drugs taken out of supply but a crime group has been disrupted and those involved now jailed.”
Northumbria’s police commissioner Vera Baird said: “Those who deal in illegal drugs are causing real problems for families as well as the wider community.
“This latest operation carried out by NERSOU is the culmination of officers working together across several forces to gather intelligence and take action against offenders.
“It sends a clear message that effective policing continues across regional boundaries, giving criminals literally no place to hide.”