A Barrowford man who was the one of the kingpins of a major drugs supply operation across the North-West has been jailed for 11 and a half years.
Darren Bowling (48), of Colne Road, had admitted conspiracy to supply a class A controlled drug (cocaine), conspiracy to supply a class B controlled drug and money laundering offences at a hearing in July.
His three-co-accused, Paul Bell (49), of Massie Street, Cheadle. Stephen Barton (42), of Brandy House Brow, Blackburn and Robert Wright (49), of Bankfield Road, Sale, received sentences of between 12 years and eight months and five years and three months for various drug-related offences.
The sentences come as part of Operation Victor, a criminal investigation by Lancashire’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) into the importation and supply of cocaine, amphetamine, cannabis and money laundering across the North West of England.
An investigation commenced in April, 2013 looking at Bowling as head of the gang. The investigation revealed that he was responsible for arranging the importation of cocaine into the UK via Spain, on to the North West of England.
Bowling appeared to be a successful businessman, owning storage and packaging companies at Clough Mill, Hapton, Castle Car Sales and Mojitos Wine Bar in Burnley.
In addition, he also had a significant property portfolio across Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Cheshire and southern Spain which have been frozen as assets and will be subject to a future POCA (Proceeds of Crime Act) hearing.
Bowling, Bell, Wright and Barton were arrested in January, 2014 after a series of cross county raids in Lancashire, Greater Manchester and also Southern Spain.
During the investigation, officers seized 2.25kg of import quality cocaine valued at £550,000, 15kgs of amphetamine worth £150,000 street value, cannabis and £200,000 in cash.
Two other men have previously been jailed for offences related to the operation.
Melvyn Harrison (52), a warehouse manager, of Causey Foot, Nelson was acquitted of two money laundering offences following a trial in August.
Detective Inspector Martin Kane, who led the investigation, said: “This has been another example of Lancashire’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit’s relentless effort to take drugs off our streets by combatting their supply.
“There is no doubt that Darren Bowling has become a very wealthy man over the years from importing and supplying cocaine into the United Kingdom, more locally in Lancashire, and I welcome his sentence, along with his accomplices.
“We are now continuing to investigate the properties and wealth that Bowling has amassed over the years to support proceeds of crimes proceedings later this year.”
Officers have launched an international manhunt to locate another man wanted in connection with conspiracy to supply cocaine, amphetamines, cannabis and money laundering, all linked to this investigation.
Michael Donnelly (42), previously of Clough Springs, Barrowford is believed to have fled to South Africa via Dubai on a flight from Manchester in September, 2013.
If anyone has any information of his whereabouts, they can contact police on 101.
Alternatively they can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or online at Crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.