Four men from Manchester have been jailed for more than 35 years for the roles they played in a “massive drugs operation” that spanned the whole of the UK.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) says the four men were snared by officers under codename Operation Achilles – which is an investigation carried out by GMP’s Challenger Team into the encrypted phone network based in South Manchester.
Evidence was gathered relating to class A and class B drug transactions and supply, and money laundering, which, according to police, was not only in Manchester, but nationwide.
The four men were jailed at Manchester Crown Court yesterday.
Mark Evans was jailed for 10 years and six months for conspiracy to supply class A drugs, money laundering, and handling stolen goods, Keith Kemp was also jailed for 10 years and six months for conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs, and money laundering, John James Reilly was jailed for 12 years for the same offences as Kemp, and Caine Tanswell got two years and eight months for conspiracy to supply class B drugs and money laundering.
GMP says the trial of the four men follows on from the “huge success” of its Operation Venetic investigations – which relates to the Encrochat mobile phone network being deciphered by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The operation has been responsible for getting millions of pounds worth of drugs and cash of Manchester’s streets, GMP said.
At the trial yesterday, the court heard how Mark Evans acted largely as a courier with some involvement in supplying class B drugs, and mainly travelled to Liverpool to carry out his illicit trades, as well as London and Oxford.
He was also particularly active in the Cheetham Hill and Oldham areas of Manchester.
Kemp was, at times, also a courier and was active as a main conspirator for his associates, which involved him travelling to Liverpool to drop cash off and collect drugs, as well as making deliveries in Peterborough, London, Telford, Derby, and Middlesborough.
Reilly widely acted alone, but had connections with the rest of the group and carried out some “business” transactions, as well as sourcing class A drugs for other members of the group and acting as a middleman for various drugs and money transactions.
Tanswell also acted largely alone when purchasing drugs from another member of the group, and was charged with conspiracy to supply class B drugs and money laundering.
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Sergeant Andrew Beard said: “We are absolutely thrilled with today’s result, which has seen four OCG members taken off the streets of Manchester for a considerable period of time.
“Since the Encrochat system was deciphered, GMP’s Challenger Team have continued to hunt down and identify people who have been bringing drugs onto our streets and engaging in illegal activities to keep their drug supplies going.
“If you are involved in supplying drugs, money laundering or working within an organised crime group, we will identify you, arrest you, and prosecute to the full extent of the law.
“We want to protect the people of Greater Manchester and there is no better way to do this than to get people, likes these four individuals, off the streets and behind bars.”
Featured Image – GMP
Rio Ferdinand is helping change young lives with community programmes in Oldham and Salford
Ex-Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand and his foundation’s wonderful work is helping better the lives of young people in Oldham, Salford and across Manchester as a whole.
Over the past year, the Rio Ferdinand Foundation and The Guinness Partnership have been putting together a vital social initiative aimed at providing opportunities and resources to young people across Greater Manchester, helping them develop their skills and aspirations for future working life.
Now, after a hugely successful 12-month campaign, their skills and progression community programme, participants are well and truly starting to feel the impact, with 90% of those taking part now stating that they are enjoying a clear idea and focus on what they want to do for a career.
It may have be thriving in Salford and Oldham at the moment, but given the benefit the scheme has already had — not to mention the ambition the Rio Ferdinand Foundation has shown around various areas of the UK since being set up in 2012 — we can only see this spreading further across the region.
The skills-based initiative engages young people aged under 25 years old and living in Guinness homes in a six-month skills-based programme which has been up and running in the two Manc boroughs, as well as the London boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, since March 2022.
Young people from both Oldham and Salford take part in a weekly schedule of activities designed to tackle youth unemployment, including digital media training (photography, product design, filmmaking, podcasting), building and construction, CV workshops, mock interviews and more.
Not only do these shadowing opportunities garner confidence and raise aspirations among other young people in the local community, but they also help directly develop their employability skills via mentoring.
For instance, Matthew, 19 from Royton in Oldham, completed the programme and then was supported to apply to the Guinness Aspire Awards to request funding to purchase camera and lighting equipment to help him start a small local photography business. Quality stuff.
Matt says that the scheme “has been an amazing opportunity and has given [him] a chance to get back on the right path… I know what I want to do now and can’t wait to start… I would recommend that other people in my position get involved with it in the future.”
As well as markedly increasing participants health and well-being, all 100% of those involved across Salford and Oldham reported feeling more confident, with many now enjoying opportunities with the Rio Ferdinand Foundation’s partners such as Warner Music, Kiss FM, The Jockey Club and the Gym Group.
Speaking on the programme’s success, Rio himself said in a statement: “The Foundation is committed to working with young people at the heart of their communities to offer support, training, and opportunities to those that need it… engaging with the Guinness Partnership has provided a great boost to our reach and our work”.
Well in, Rio. Thankfully, he isn’t the only ex-Manchester-based footballer still trying to make a difference in the local community either:
Campbell, 38, was found dead in his home in Mossley, Tameside, on Saturday 3 July. He had been fatally assaulted and died of the injuries he sustained in the attack.
Belfield was arrested on 23 March 2023 by Suriname authorities on suspicion of drug-related offences – he’ll likely remain in the South American nation’s jurisdiction to face these charges.
Then GMP want to bring him back to Manchester to face questioning from GMP’s Major Incident Team.
Detective Chief Inspector Liz Hopkinson from GMP’s Major Incident team said: “The news of Belfield’s arrest is an important development in our investigation, we will be working with international law enforcement agencies to bring Belfield back to Manchester and continue in our pursuit to find answers for Thomas’ family.
“Through vigilance shown by our colleagues in South America, Belfield was recognised by Suriname’s law enforcement upon his arrest and information regarding his whereabouts was shared with our Force Critical Wanted Unit.
“We have previously released numerous appeals to ask for help in finding him and we thank the public for their continued support in this case.
“This is an excellent result which shows once again, that UK law enforcement does not give up on finding those abroad who are wanted for offences in the UK.”