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Drug trafficker jailed after two years on the run - last piece in the jigsaw as final gang member sentenced

News | Published:

  • Drug trafficker jailed after two years on the run
  • Neil McInally was at the heart of a plot to smuggle thousands of pounds of heroin into Jersey
  • He has become the fourth member of a gang to be locked up for a failed plot to import £110,000 worth of the class A drug in May 2013
  • Read about the gang in more detail below

A DRUG trafficker who was at the heart of a plot to smuggle thousands of pounds of heroin into Jersey has been jailed after spending two years on the run.

Neil McInally was the fourth member of a gang to be locked up for a failed plot to import £110,000 worth of the class A drug in May 2013.

The 30-year-old's three co-accused all received significant prison sentences last year after being arrested minutes after the drugs arrived in the Island.

But McInally - the Glasgow based ringleader of the Scotland arm of the operation - remained at large until he was finally arrested in May this year.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import a controlled drug and was this week sentenced by the Superior Number - which convenes for Jersey's most serious cases - to seven years in prison.

Outlining the case, Crown Advocate Julian Gollop said that drug courier Michael McBride, then aged 21, was arrested minutes after arriving at Jersey Airport with the drugs hidden internally. Georgina Mason, aged 29, who was due to collect McBride, was also arrested.

Minutes later Jersey based gang leader Mario Capuano, then aged 46, was detained at a flat at de Quetteville Court, where officers also found a machete and an imitation firearm.

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McInally, the court heard, recruited McBride and arranged for him to bring the drugs to Jersey.

Following the arrest of McBride and Mason, there were a 'multitude' of calls and texts from McInally to the pair, which Advocate Gollop said were the defendant's attempts in 'trying to find out what had happened to the importation of the heroin'.

He added: 'There is the obvious frustration and panic revealed by the defendant's attempts to contact his co-conspirators either by phone or text.

'The defendant, like Capuano, was at the heart of this conspiracy and was the organiser or principal in Scotland.'

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Following the arrest of the three other gang members, the States police continued to work with the Scottish police in tracking down McInally, who was arrested on 15 May this year and returned to Jersey.

In a statement, the States police said: 'The States of Jersey Police recognise the impact the distribution of these drugs would have on the local community. Following the sentencing we continue to remain committed to working with all enforcement agencies in bringing anyone involved in drug trafficking criminality to justice.'

Advocate Rebecca Morley-Kirk, defending, said that although her client was not of good character, he knew 'full well' how serious the offence was and he had 'turned his life around'.

'He is doing everything he can to stay positive and maintain his good behaviour,' she said.

Delivering the court's sentence, Deputy Bailiff Tim Le Cocq said that credit had been given to McInally for his early guilty plea but because he was at the 'centre' of the importation, the sentence had to be considered at 'length'.

Mr Le Cocq was sitting with Jurats Robert Kerley, Suzanne Marett-Crosby, Charles Blampied, Geoffrey Grime, Jeremy Ramsden and Peter Morgan.

Last piece in the jigsaw as drugs gang member jailed

WHEN three members of a major organised crime gang were locked up last year following a failed drug smuggling operation, the States police hailed their investigation a success – but knew there was still a missing piece of the jigsaw.

While ringleader Mario Capuano, his fiancée and 'lieutenant' Georgina Mary Mason and drugs courier Michael McBride were transported back to La Moye to start long jail terms, one gang member, Neil McInally, was still on the run, somewhere in Scotland.

Since 2006 there has been a dramatic decline in the amount of drugs seized by the States police.

In 2006, £1,620,021 worth of drugs were seized, which has dropped every year since, and in 2013 the figure stood at £270,000.

However, in June this year, officers seized drugs with an estimated street value of £1.2 million.

During the sentencing hearing in February last year, the Royal Court heard that Capuano, who was 46 years old, was the leader of an organised crime syndicate which had attempted to import £110,000 worth of heroin into the Island.

He received 11 years in prison, Mason, then 29, was sentenced to seven, while McBride, who was 21, was sentenced to six years.

McInally was known to be a major figure in the Scotland arm of the doomed plot, but while the Jersey gang members were all detained minutes after the drugs arrived in the Island, the Glasgow-based criminal escaped justice.

An international arrest warrant was obtained and backed in Scotland in September 2013, several months after the other three were detained.

The 30-year-old was arrested by Scottish police in May this year in the Tollcross area of Glasgow for unrelated offences and was returned to Jersey by local officers.

McInally was believed to have been 'at the heart' of the importation of the class A drug from Glasgow and was this week jailed for seven years after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import a controlled drug.

His sentencing marked the end of a two-year investigation which began when the States police and other enforcement agencies launched an operation – codenamed Operation Sphere – to smash the drugs enterprise.

'People who are involved in this type of criminality know that the police will be looking for them and he had probably gone to ground.

The imitation firearm found at Mason's flat, thought to have been used for forcible debt recovery

Mason and McBride were arrested at Jersey Airport after McBride caught a flight to the Island from Glasgow on 2 May with the drugs hidden internally.

Mason's role was to collect him and drive him to her flat at de Quetteville Court, where Capuano was waiting.

The States police knew that the gang had planned to import the heroin and officers worked with other agencies, including Customs and the Scottish police, to intercept the drugs.

Nine police officers in three unmarked vehicles were involved in the arrest of Mason and McBride.

It was believed that the heroin market in the Island has declined over recent years as users turned to cheap and more accessible substances.

However, according to a recent report – The Nature, Extent, Impact, and Response to Illicit Drug Use in Jersey – out of 81 problem drug users surveyed, 48 per cent of them said they were using heroin every day.

Capuano, who was waiting at Mason's flat, was arrested the same day and a machete and an imitation firearm were seized at the flat, which the gang were suspected of using to forcibly recover debts.

Following the seizure of multiple mobile phones from the gang members, it was revealed that McInally fulfilled the same role or had the same level of importance to the operation in Scotland as Capuano did in Jersey.

The court heard that on the day of the importation, there were a number of calls passing between McInally, McBride and Capuano, before McBride caught his flight to Jersey.

After the arrest of McBride and Mason, McInally sent a 'multitude' of texts to the pair in an attempt to find out what had happened to the heroin.

Telephone records showed the 'extensive' contact between Capuano and McInally and evidence that McInally had organised the courier, McBride.

McBride – who has learning difficulties – forgot his passport, missed his flight and was unable to pay for a ticket before he finally arrived in Jersey with the heroin.

In a statement, the States police said: 'McInally's co-accused were all subjects of significant prison sentences for their involvement in February 2014.

However, States of Jersey police continued to work with the Scottish police in tracking down and locating the outstanding key player, McInally, who was brought back to Jersey by local officers to face the justice system for his involvement.

'The States of Jersey Police recognise the impact the distribution of these drugs would have on the local community.

'Following the sentencing we continue to remain committed to working with all enforcement agencies in bringing anyone involved in drug trafficking criminality to justice.

'These efforts extend, where possible, to those in other jurisdictions who seek financial gain through exploiting Jersey illicit drug market.'

The machete found at Mason's flat.

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