VIDEO: NCA film 1.8 tonnes of cannabis resin arriving in Needham Market

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A prolific drug smuggler responsible for importing 4.5 tonnes of drugs has been jailed along with 13 members of his criminal group for a total of 66 and a half years.

Among the drugs busts carried out by the National Crime Agency’s Eastern Region Special Operations Unit was 1.8 tonnes of cannabis resin recovered from an industrial site in Needham Market in June 2013.

News from the Bury Free Press

News from the Bury Free Press

Over a two year period, the National Crime Agency followed the activities of Joseph Ashman as he attempted to distribute cannabis resin with a likely potential street value of £23 million.

Ashman, 46, of Rainham in Essex, pleaded guilty in 2014 to conspiracy to supply controlled drugs and money laundering and was sentenced to serve eight years and eight months in prison.

Eleven members of Ashman’s crime group have already received prison sentences with the remaining two - Leon Phillips, 46, from Ipswich and Peter Brown, 42, from Sutton, Surrey, sentenced yesterday to three years and four months and four years respectively for their roles in the conspiracy.

Sentencing Phillips and Brown at the Old Bailey, Judge Lord Pontius said ‘this has been a huge investigation involving months of painstaking police work.”

Drugs seized by the National Crime Agency as part of its investigation into Joseph Ashman and his crime gang ANL-150116-123359001

Drugs seized by the National Crime Agency as part of its investigation into Joseph Ashman and his crime gang ANL-150116-123359001

Detective Inspector Eamonn Bridger from Suffolk Constabulary said: “We’re really pleased that justice has been done and that our hard work has helped put this prolific drug smuggler and his associates away for a long time.

“It is a fantastic result, one that all of our officers involved in the case should be proud of, and a great example of the importance of joint agency cross-border working.”