Hero 7/7 fireman jailed over €117m drug ring
Published 05/01/2011 | 12:34
A hero fireman honoured for rescuing victims of one of the July 7 London bombs has been jailed for 14 years for his role in a £100m (€117m) cocaine ring, it can be reported today.
Simon Ford, 41, won a London Fire Brigade Gold Award for risking his life to get victims off the bus blown up in Tavistock Square during the suicide attacks on the capital in 2005.
But the former drug addict is now serving a jail term after admitting he was a key player in a sprawling network of underworld crime gangs responsible for flooding south-east England with drugs.
His case can be reported today for the first time after the final member of the 35-strong drugs and money laundering gang was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court and legal restrictions were lifted.
A total of 33 criminals linked to the operation have been sentenced to more than 200 years in prison for offences including conspiracy to supply cocaine, money laundering and firearms offences.
The court heard how ringleaders netted more than £100m in cash via a run-down but heavily fortified taxi garage under the Westway in Paddington, central London.
Royal Oak Taxis received huge consignments of cocaine ready for repackaging and distribution and served as a one-stop money laundering shop for crooks who swapped bags of sterling for smaller 500 euro notes.
Ford was one of 22 people arrested when officers from Scotland Yard's Special Intelligence Section (SIS), supported by more than 500 colleagues, raided homes across London and the surrounding counties in February 2008.
The simultaneous raids, the largest conducted by British police, employed a mechanical digger to ram through a wall of one Uxbridge home and followed 10 months of surveillance and bugging.
The Soho-based firefighter was caught red-handed at his flat in Guildford Street, Chertsey, as he divided more than 100 kilos of cocaine, worth around £5.5m, for delivery to a ring of couriers waiting at service stations around the M25.
Police said the waterproof drug packages had been picked up at a beach in Hythe, Kent, the previous night after being delivered by men on an inflatable boat and were still wet with sea water.
Investigators realised what an important role Ford played in the gang when they found the drugs. They had believed he was simply a money courier.
A second man, cage fighter Aman Salhan, 28, of Oxford Avenue, Harlington, west London, was also found in the flat. He was jailed for 17 years after a jury found him guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine.
As officers searched the flat, dozens of phone calls were made to three pay-as-you-go mobile phones as worried criminal contacts tried to find out why the pair were running late.
Detective Superintendent Steve Richardson, head of the SIS, said the operation dealt a "huge blow" to the British class A drugs industry.
He said: "These criminals had been living the lives of wealthy businessmen through their criminal activity. The lives they are now leading could not be more different.
"The link between drugs and violence has been well made and can ultimately be traced to violence and harm in London's boroughs. Operation Eaglewood has prevented these men contributing to that."