A NANTWICH businessman has been jailed for eight years for his role in a multi-million pound international cannabis smuggling plot run from his wholesale flower business.
Baan Klootwijk, 49, a Dutch national who lived in London Road, Nantwich, used the warehouse of Baan Flower Trading in Market Drayton as a front for the operation.
Dozens of cardboard boxes containing hundreds of kilos of cannabis were ferried in refrigerated lorries from Holland hidden among cartons of fresh flowers on more than 50 occasions.
Klootwijk sourced the drugs through contacts in Holland flying from Liverpool to Amsterdam to supervise loading the drugs, which were distributed across the UK and had a potential street value estimated at £200 million.
Klootwijk's business partner, David North, 50, a former soldier, of Hales, near Market Drayton ran the UK end of the conspiracy and was jailed for seven years.
The pair met through the flower trade. Both pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle drugs into the UK and being involved in the supply of cannabis between November, 2011 and February last year.
Six other men who were either Baan Flower Trading drivers or couriers for other drug dealers received jail sentences totalling 34 years.
Passing sentence at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday, June 27, Judge Michael Chambers said "truly colossal amounts of cannabis" had been distributed.
The cannabis conspiracy was uncovered by West Mercia’s Operation Omaha, which involved covert audio recordings from the Baan Flower Trading offices, CCTV at the premises and covert filming of drugs being loaded on lorries at a factory unit in Rijnsberg, a few miles from a Dutch flower auction site.
Applications for confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act were made against all the defendants.