THE head of a criminal gang which brought vast quantities of class A drugs into the UK from Spain and the Netherlands has been jailed. 

In March 2021, the Leader reported how 47-year-old Darren Roberts, of Cadnant Drive in Bagillt, 41-year-old Daniel Lee Taylor, of Glan y Don in Greenfield and 43-year-old Stephen Metcalf, of Fairway North in Bromborough, were sentenced for their involvement in the criminal enterprise from May 2019 to October 2020.

Each of the men received a 15 year jail sentence, with the ringleader of the organisation said at that point to be "at large abroad."

But in March this year the man in that role, Christopher Gibney, aged 55 and of Grenadier Drive in Liverpool, was apprehended in Spain and returned to the UK a few weeks later.

He entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to evade prohibition on importation of class A drugs and appeared at Mold Crown Court for sentence on Friday afternoon.

Ffion Tomos, prosecuting, told the court Gibney had been the head of "a very sophisticated and very well organised criminal organisation."

The gang used the United Parcel Service (UPS) 'waybill' service, which is a document issued by the company to acknowledge possession of a shipment.

Empty waybills would be sent to suppliers overseas, who would fill them out using the names of real companies.

The group used the system to avoid shipments arriving by air in order to prevent them from being x-rayed.

Daniel Taylor, Stephen Metcalf and Darren Roberts. All images; North Wales PoliceDaniel Taylor, Stephen Metcalf and Darren Roberts. All images; North Wales Police (Image: North Wales Police)

Deeside's UPS depot was always chosen to send the parcels to, because Daniel Taylor was a team leader there.

Parcels were sent on days which saw them arriving when he was on shift.

When they were arriving, he'd turn up to work in the early hours of the morning and intercept them - scanning them out as if they'd been collected.

He would then meet Roberts in the vicinity of the depot and hand them over to him.

Gibney's part in the gang was made clear when encrypted messages sent and received by him - under the handles 'Hasty Shark' and 'Lobster Ball' - were obtained by French police.

He had been the one to to organise the importation of "vast" quantities of the drugs and said they "had a customs officer on-side."

He was also found to have said they would do the importation three times a week.

The vast majority of the parcels arrived in the UK undetected, but some were intercepted by police, and were found to have significant quantities of cocaine and heroin inside.

And one day in September 2020 the parcels were followed by police.

They were seen being handed on by Roberts to Metcalf on the Wirral.

Legitimate companies selected had no idea their names were being used to hide the importation of class A drugs into the UK.

Christopher Gibney (NWROCU)Christopher Gibney (NWROCU) (Image: North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU))

One of those innocent companies was a garage in Saint Asaph and another a garage on the Wirral - where completely innocent people were initially arrested thanks to the defendants' actions.

Based on an estimation by a police drugs expert, the potential weight of drugs brought into the UK in the 150 separate shipments the group carried out came to between 984kg and 1,304kg.

And the potential value of the above weight, if the shipments contained half cocaine and half heroin, would have been just over £49million in heroin and more than £92million in cocaine.

Anthony Barraclough, defending, asked the court to give his client credit for his guilty plea and to reflect the fact he had not contested his return to the UK after being apprehended by the Spanish authorities.

He said: "This is the first time he's been in prison and he is about to face a long sentence.

"Even though it's his own fault, at his age, that might attract some limited amount of mitigation.

"He isn't, on the face of it, an experienced criminal.

"I ask you to keep the sentence as low as possible in all the circumstances of the case.

"It's a very serious case, we have to accept."


Judge Rhys Rowlands told the defendant: "This operation came to light as a result of excellent work by the authorities in this country and in France.

"It involved huge amounts of heroin and cocaine being imported from the Netherlands and Spain, with parcels containing the drugs being addressed to entirely innocent companies.

"You'd have know that when the authorities caught up with you, a very long prison sentence would follow - but it was a risk you were willing to take.

"You were running, or helping to run, at the top of the pyramid, a very sophisticated criminal enterprise which would have caused untold misery across North Wales, North West England and potentially further afield."

The Judge said Gibney had thought nothing of his causing harm to countless people just to make profit.

He received an overall jail term of 21 years.