THE ringleader of a gang at the centre of one of the largest drug seizures in the country’s history will be forced to pay back up to £6million of his ill-gotten gains.

Jamie Simpson, from Padgate, was handed 11 years behind bars in June 2019 after his racket was caught with £20million of cocaine during a dramatic police sting on the M6 as the shipment was being transported from Kent to Warrington.

Warrington Guardian:

On Friday last week, the 32-year-old was hauled back before Liverpool Crown Court for a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing.

The court heard that Simpson, of Delery Drive, benefited to the tune of £6,143,854 from his illicit dealings.

And while he was only ordered to pay back a nominal sum of £1 by a judge, Cheshire Police will be able to seize any assets that the drugs kingpin comes into in the future up to this huge and ‘unheard of’ figure.

Warrington Guardian:

Detective chief inspector Giles Pierce, of the force’s serious and organised crime unit, said: “It is unheard of for a criminal to have such a large benefit figure, but this is due to the fact that Simpson was involved in one of the largest inland cocaine seizures in this country.

“More than £6million of that cocaine belonged to Simpson, and the remaining amount would have been purchased by other organised criminals.

“Simpson will always be in debt and owe the police the money until he has repaid the full amount.

Warrington Guardian:

Simpson being arrested on the M6

“In the future, once he is released from prison, the Proceeds of Crime Act gives us the power to take from him anything he buys that is of value.

“This means he will never live the lavish lifestyle he did when he was operating his criminal enterprise.”

A covert 14-month investigation led to the capture of Simpson and his co-conspirators Andrew Daniels, Clare Smith and Dean Brettle.

In the early hours of August 2 2018, the quartet travelled from Warrington to the south east in order to load up a Volkswagen Transporter van with the cocaine.

The drugs, which had been imported via the English Channel and River Medway, were stashed in compartments hidden beneath the floorboards.

Warrington Guardian:

Having almost completed their journey home later that day, their vehicle was suddenly flanked by a fleet of unmarked police cars and boxed in against the central reservation near to junction 19 of the motorway at Knutsford.

Simpson ran a business offering bouncy castles for hire, as well as chocolate fountains and candy floss machines for events or celebrations.

After their arrest, he maintained that they had been in Kent in order to buy a bouncy castle.

But 186kg of cocaine at a 94 per cent purity was discovered in the van.

Warrington Guardian:

Every kilo would have been bought at wholesale for between £30,000 and £50,000, but had a street value of £100,000 each.

And it was believed to be the largest drugs seizure by police in the UK other than at the country's borders.

The investigation, codenamed Operation Dreadnought, had initially been focussed on another organised crime group based in the town and led by Jamie Oldroyd.

But officers received intelligence of the multi-million pound drugs shipment as a result of his and Simpson's close friendship.

Members of their two cocaine rings were jailed for more than 150 years in total during 2019.

Warrington Guardian:

Jamie Oldroyd

Monies recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act are reinvested into policing projects in the communities that convicts have ‘ruined’ through their criminality.

Cheshire police and crime commissioner David Keane added: “The Proceeds of Crime Act ensures that money seized from criminals is put to good use keeping our communities safe.

“Criminal activity ruins lives and communities, so I am committed to ensuring money seized from offending is reinvested back into our communities to discourage people from making the same mistakes.

“My Safer Communities Fund takes the money seized underneath the Proceeds of Crime Act in Cheshire and reinvests it back into local community groups via small grants so they can make their area a safer place to live.”