UK: Multi-million pound cocaine smuggling gang partied in Las Vegas and blew cash in Harrods… leader also made donations to Catholic churches and a youth club

The Liverpool Echo reports

Kingpin also made donations to Catholic churches and a youth club while trafficking huge amounts of heroin and cocaine

A gang who trafficked millions of pounds worth of heroin and cocaine were brought crashing down by their own loose lips.

Michael Barlow and his men partied in Las Vegas and blew cash in Harrods thanks to the “misery” they spread across the UK. The kingpin also made donations to Catholic churches and a youth club, funded by “the very highest level” Class A drugs.

But police had secretly bugged his BMW and were covertly filming and listening to his men at work in a luxury flat turned drugs factory. Last week, fugitive courier Liam Mills was finally brought to justice after spending the best part of a decade on the run.

Their racket was rumbled back in 2015 when Barlow, then 34, was recorded bragging in his BMW: “We’re up to our eyebrows. We’re swimming in gear.”

Joseph Graney, then 31, was described as his “right hand man”, and a third dealer, Alan Foster, then 43, was the “trusted subordinate” of the gang. They worked from an apartment on Waterside, Princes Dock, where Barlow, Graney, Foster, Graney’s twin brother Paul and Mills were secretly recorded as part of Operation Harthill.

Footage captured hundreds of thousands of pounds being counted and kilo-sized blocks of Class A drugs, but not a single fingerprint or item of DNA was found. The “forensically highly aware” gang wore latex gloves as they cut drugs with adulterants, stored cash in a microwave, and operated a drugs press.

Their product was shipped across the UK and the gang made so much money that their counting machine was once recorded operating for two hours straight. When officers sneaked into the flat on several occasions, they discovered tick lists mentioning major deals, sealed mobile phone boxes and SIM cards, boxes and drawers full of cash and took samples of drugs destined for criminals in London and the north east.

On one occasion, Foster was overheard bragging of their lucrative operation: “F***ing hell. There mustn’t be any f***ing £20 notes in f***ing Newcastle.”

When Barlow talked about a flat being raided and linked to a van, he told Joseph Graney: “We’re in big trouble. I’ve got about five people in jail.”

Paul Graney was seen with Barlow, his brother and Mills at Manchester Airport on September 3 – when they jetted off to Las Vegas and didn’t return until September 14. Their ring was estimated to have netted profits of around £1,000 per week.

Barlow holidayed in Dubai and dropped big sums in Harrods and on designer shoes for his mistress, thanks to his ill-gotten gains. But the rail recruitment boss also gifted dirty cash to churches and community projects – making donations to St Francis Xavier and St Peter’s Catholic churches, as well as Shrewsbury House youth club in Everton.

Following a series of raids in July 2016, Barlow – of Latimer Street in Vauxhall – was jailed for 16 years. Joseph Graney, of Snowdon Lane in Vauxhall, received 14 years and Foster, of Marnell Close in Vauxhall, was imprisoned for eight years.

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