Cannabis smuggler jailed for six years

Gary Wilkinson
Gary Wilkinson

A MAN who was part of a gang planning to smuggle £2m worth of cannabis into the country hidden in a cargo of Spanish onions has been jailed for six years.

Gary Wilkinson, 50, of Brook Drive, Leigh, was one of four men arrested after officers from the National Crime Agency raided an industrial unit in Openshaw, Manchester in October 2012.

Wilkinson, along with Andrew Soloman, 46, of New Beech Road, Stockport; Paul Farrell, 33, of Clinton Avenue, Fallowfield, Manchester; and Stephen Potter, 41, of Paisley Avenue, St Helens, all pleaded guilty to conspiring to import cannabis. Soloman also admitted a charge of being involved in supplying heroin.

He and Wilkinson were arrested at their industrial unit, having just taken delivery of around 374kg of cannabis skunk and resin which had been delivered by lorry, concealed in a load of onions. Potter was arrested in connection with the importation on the same day at an address in St Helens, while officers arrested Farrell in a bar in the Trafford Centre the following month.

National Crime Agency Regional Head of Investigations Steve Baldwin said: “This was drug trafficking on an almost industrial scale.

“These men were key players in a criminal organisation that had the ability to transport huge amounts of cannabis across international borders. They were motivated by the chance to make huge profits. Thanks to the hard work of our investigators they are now behind bars.”

A judge at Manchester Crown Court sentenced Wilkinson and Farrell to prison terms of six years and five years and six months respectively. At an earlier hearing Soloman received a nine-year jail term, and Potter six years.