Saturday, 3 Jun 2023

Drug importing dad had grenades and contacts in Colombia

A dad used an international network of criminal contacts in Colombia, Brazil and Dubai to flood the UK with cocaine and heroin.

Graham Minards and his partner Peter Bradshaw armed themselves with had grenades and were ready to recruit “lads who blow any c***’s head off” in order to fend off threats.

Using the pseudonym “Calm Tea”, he was involved in the trade of more than 1,300kg of class A drugs.

Described as a “leading player nationally” and being “in the higher echelons” of organised crime, the father is now beginning a 21-year jail term, reports The Liverpool Echo.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that Minards and Bradshaw organised their “very large scale and sophisticated nationwide drugs supply business” via encrypted communications platform EncroChat.

A series of messages from between March and June 2020, recovered when their network was infiltrated by law enforcement authorities, showed that they had been “involved in the purchasing and supply of multi-kilo quantities of drugs on a daily basis” and would also move drugs and cash on behalf of others – “believing they would make millions of pounds” in doing do.

“Business brain” Minards was rumbled as the figure behind the handle “CalmTea” after sending pictures of himself to other users.

The 37-year-old, of Canella Avenue in Norris Green, Liverpool, had also proudly spoken of his daughter’s achievements in karate and of his boiler fitting company to the 100 contacts he had stored on his device.

Meanwhile, 42-year-old Bradshaw – of Pensarn Road, Old Swan, Liverpool – went under the name “StockyGiant”.

This handle was attributed to him as he had used his children’s names as his lock screen password, having had a total of 46 other handles listed on his Encro phone.

Nicola Daley, prosecuting, described how secret discussions included arrangements to transport 50kg of cocaine from London to Glasgow.

Minards also asked Bradshaw to collect 5kg of drugs from a location in Kirkby, made a request for him to “pick 30 bits up early from Essex” – a reference to 30kg of cocaine – and hatched an agreement to transport 20kg worth to Newcastle.

Further chats centred on the movement of 45kg to High Wycombe using “jockeys”, or couriers, as well as supply lines to Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Leeds and Bradford.

Together, they “organised a fleet of vehicles” including transportation with secret hides to stash their illicit goods.

On one occasion, Minards was asked by “SaggySloth” whether he could arrange the movement of a “two bar” from “Brum” – transporting £2million in cash from Birmingham to London.

He suggested that his payment should be £10,000 per million and that there would be £6million per month to ship.

Another plot saw the two defendants consider hiring a recovery truck to tow a Mercedes Sprinter van with a hidden compartment inside.

They also referred to using an accountant to set up businesses to “use and fold” in order to avoid paying VAT.

Bradshaw and Minards were said to be “equal business partners” at the outset, although the latter “had more contacts and business acumen”.

The former meanwhile “struggled to pay his debtors” and spoke about raising funds by remortgaging flats and properties he was renovating.

By June 2020, Bradshaw had racked up “significant debts” and was coming under serious threat – including from fellow EncroChat user FierceCrow.

But discussions between him and Minards suggested they “had weapons and contacts who could beat him up”.

One text sent by Bradshaw on June 12, 2020, read: “Mate, me and Tony have got a gym bag full of them. I’ve got pineapples and everything I bought years ago.

“It’s not about that. He has crossed the line saying kids and that lar.”

The term pineapples is commonly used in the criminal underworld to refer to grenades.

Minards then replied: “Lad I’ve got kids here by my mum’s who blow any c***’s head off never mind legs, f*** him.”

Conversations also detailed Minards’ involvement in the importation of both heroin and cocaine.

In one exchange with the handle “AtomBar”, he said he had the “main kid in Brazil as my contact” and boasted: “No one has got him, only me.”

Responding to a request for cocaine from “FighterLilac” on May 27, Minards responded “transport goes every week, 8,000 from Colo, takes 32 days”.

In other messages, he detailed having “significant contacts abroad” and said he was “trusted by others based in Dubai, South America and Europe to move monies and drugs on their behalf”.

A third conspirator, Michael Aboo, was initially recruited by Bradshaw as a courier – using his cover as a maintenance man to transport “huge sums of drugs and cash”.

However, he refused to travel to Scotland as he had previously been arrested north of the border and subsequently convicted of drugs offences.

The 29-year-old also arranged for others to run couriering jobs on his behalf and eventually “branched out into brokering his own deals”.

Aboo, of Musker Drive in Netherton, operated using the handle “WittyHound” – with an Encro phone he was given by Bradshaw in April 2020 having 10 contacts stored on it.

In total, Minards was evidenced to have agreed deals to supply a massive 1,235kg of cocaine, 89kg of heroin, 88.5kg of cannabis and 195l of amphetamine oil.

Bradshaw was found to have discussed the trafficking of 1,067kg of cocaine, 175kg of heroin, 380.5kg of cannabis and 374l of amphetamine oil while Aboo was involved in the sale of 467kg of cocaine, 3kg of heroin and 60kg in cannabis as well as the transfer of monies totalling £764,000.

Bradshaw was arrested on September 16, 2021, while driving a Mercedes on St Oswalds Street in Old Swan.

Police seized £5,820 in cash from him, as well as finding a “series of different properties” linked to him.

His two previous convictions include an eight-and-a-half year jail term handed down for the importation of class A drugs in 2011 as part of a £14million plot in Cumbria.

Bradshaw then received a suspended sentence for assault occasioning actual bodily harm in 2019 after breaking a man’s nose during an attack in a bar in Liverpool city centre.

Minards was detained on January 6 last year while driving a Ford Transit van on Lorenzo Drive in Norris Green, with a search of his vehicle revealing tick lists, “high value” watches and a lock knife.

He has four previous convictions for five offences, including for robbery and violent offences in Greece.

Aboo meanwhile was held by police at his home address on June 7, 2022. He has three previous convictions for drug supply.

Dominic Thomas, defending Bradshaw, told the court that the dad-of-three’s involvement in the underworld ending with him owing debts of some £750,000 – resulting in “serious threats being made to him”.

He added: “There is a plain and obvious hierarchy.

“There are those at the top in Dubai, the likes of FierceCrow and HeinekenBooze, acting for great profit. Next down in the hierarchy, we find, is Mr Minards.

“One step down from him is Mr Bradshaw. While in some sense these men acted in concert, effectively as partners, Mr Bradshaw was very much the junior partner.

“He was a man completely out of his depth and unable to operate at this level, failing to generate any personal profit and digging a bigger and bigger hole. This is a defendant lacking in the business brain this would require.

“Whatever advantage there was to be made, he made little or none. Quite the opposite.

“This is a man who is sorry for what he has done and is determined to put it right. There is another side to Mr Bradshaw, a much more attractive side.”

Matthew Buckland, appearing for Minards, described his client as a “decent, hard-working, honest man” who has previously run marathons for charity. He said: “He has had the courage to acknowledge his wrongdoing.

“His family are appalled, but stand by him – perhaps only for that reason. He has three young daughters and he has let them down, and let them down badly.

“He was trusted – he is close to those who are at the top but more detached and leading a very different life overseas, at arm’s length and letting the conspiracy run itself in his hands in this country.

“Although the responsibility is his, the reward perhaps is not as great for him as it is for them.”

Daniel Bramhall said of “conscientious, empathetic and dedicated” Aboo: “He is remorseful. He doesn’t have any justification for what he has done and will have time to reflect on his actions more during the lengthy custodial sentence he is going to serve.

“This wasn’t Mr Aboo’s operation. Mr Aboo is essentially at the bottom of the pecking order.”

Minards – who appeared via video link to HMP Manchester – admitted conspiracy to import heroin and cocaine and conspiracy to supply heroin, cocaine, ketamine, amphetamine and cannabis.

Aboo meanwhile pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin, cocaine and cannabis and conspiracy to launder money.

He was handed 15 years behind bars as he appeared from HMP Altcourse.

Sentencing, Judge David Aubrey KC said: “Each of you was a major or integral part of the conspiracy, albeit playing different roles. You were each trading in desperation and destitution.

“You were driven by greed and showed a complete disregard for the wellbeing of others. You, Minards, would speak about the millions you could make from your illicit dealings.

“The money you made must have been substantial. You were only concerned with money and not humanity.

“You were each perpetuating inevitable consequences on society – the proliferation of drug turf wars and the devastating consequences of which we have all become so familiar, where the lives of innocent people are lost. You cared not about those things.

“You were playing for high stakes and substantial financial reward. Those who seek to profit from such misery must expect punishment, especially given the scale at which the business was operating.

“You thought you were invincible, protected by the phones in your hands. But that has proven to be your downfall.

“As a result of painstaking and meticulous work by a number of agencies, there was to be no hiding place for your sophisticated drug dealing. The contents of each phone revealed precisely what you were up to.

“You were each involved in the wholesale distribution of class A drugs on a monumental scale. You, Minards, were operating a highly sophisticated, national and profitable business.

“I am satisfied you and Bradshaw were equal partners in the business, but you had the business acumen and were the brains behind the operation. It is clear you were trusted by others based in Dubai, South America and Europe.

“Such a profitable, well organised business was illicit in the extreme. This was a commercial operation involving massive quantities of class A drugs.

“Nationally, you were a leading player – if not the leading player. You were very much in the higher echelons in the drug trade.”

Bradshaw – who admitted conspiracy to supply heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamine and cannabis – is due to be sentenced tomorrow (April 14).

He, Minards and Aboo could be ordered to repay their ill-gotten gains under the Proceeds of Crime Act and will be brought back to court later this year, when serious crime prevention orders may also be imposed.

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