A FORMER Hibs footballer who started a promising career playing alongside stars such as Ian Murray and Derek Riordan is today facing a lengthy prison sentence after being caught red-handed with the biggest haul of drugs ever seized by Lothian and Borders Police.
Kris Brown was in a Sighthill drugs factory “chopping shop” with two accomplices when police forced their way in with a battering ram and found the heroin worth £1.7 million on the streets.
Brown had played with a Hibs youth team, which included future stars Garry O’Connor, Riordan and Murray. The High Court in Edinburgh heard how pressed blocks of the Class A drug ready for distribution to dealers were found on a shelf in a kitchen cupboard in the upper flat alongside packets of Rich Tea and Digestive biscuits, with another cupboard full of 250g bags of heroin ready to be compressed in a mould.
The man who rented the flat, Lee Knott, told officers during the search: “Wait till you see the other cupboard.”
Officers found powder “all over the place”, the court heard. They recovered a hydraulic press for moulding the drug in a bedroom, along with mixing equipment and adulterants such as paracetamol for bulking out the drug. Brown, 29, had denied being concerned in the supply of heroin but was unanimously convicted of the offence by a jury.
He was also convicted of being concerned in the supply of cocaine and mephedrone and of possessing cocaine.
The judge, Lord Boyd of Duncansby, told him: “You have been convicted unanimously of the very serious charge of being concerned in the supply of heroin.
“We have heard this was the largest find of diamorphine in Lothian and Borders and that this could constitute 170,000 deals at street level. You are facing a very considerable period of imprisonment.”
The raid was carried out by dozens of officers wearing body armour, who swooped shortly after midnight and battered down the door.
Today, Lothian and Borders Police’s head of CID said the investigation had recovered 19kg of heroin and 50kg of mephedrone.
Chief superintendent Gill Imery said it was believed to be the biggest seizure since police caught Inch drug gang leader Mark Richardson with cocaine worth £700,000 in a raid in 2009.
She said an eight-month operation had resulted in 31 arrests, with ten convictions so far and 21 cases ongoing, and had taken a susbstantial supply off the streets, helping to protect users, their families and communities and striking a major blow against organised criminals.
The jury at the drugs trial was shown footage of the flat at Sighthill View, in Edinburgh, following the police raid.
Photos taken at the scene showed the haul of drugs neatly lined up next to packets of biscuits, cling film and salt and pepper.
Detective Sergeant Charles Selcraig, 56, who has 32 years’ experience, said: “This is the largest recovery of heroin I have seen in Lothian and Borders in my service.”
“I have absolutely no doubt what we are seeing here is a chopping shop operation. Drugs of a higher purity are being adulterated into a lower purity for onward supply to other dealers,” he said.
“It is a wholesale operation. This is organised. This is not haphazard,” he said.
A total of 17.2kg of the Class A drug were found in the flat. A ticklist headed with C for cocaine and PH for plant food, a street name for the Class B drug mephedrone, was also discovered.
A line of chopped-up cocaine was laid out on a work top in the kitchen with a rolled up banknote and a card in the name of Brown.
Mobile phones were also seized and analysed, and Brown’s phone was found to have been used to send a message, saying it was coming on Wednesday and it was meant to be a huge amount and better. Brown, who was in the flat with Knott, 23, and co-accused Iain Hunter, 22, when police raided it shortly after midnight on December 16, 2010, had denied any involvement with the heroin.
He said: “I didn’t know anything about the drugs until police told me there were copious amounts of heroin found inside the property. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He told the court: “I am not guilty of touching any heroin. mixing any heroin, selling any heroin.”
The lift engineer said his apprentice Knott had used his mobile phone and he knew that the younger man sold cocaine and “plant food”.
He said he was planning to stay overnight at the flat and did not know how his fingerprints were on a sandwich bag which tested positive for heroin. Brown, of Slateford Road, in Edinburgh, was found with cocaine and admitted he had used the Class A drug for about ten years.
He told police he had previously played professional football at Hibs but did not get on with former manager Alex McLeish.
Knott, of Calder Gardens, in Edinburgh, pleaded guilty during the trial to being concerned in the supply of heroin, cocaine and mephedrone and Hunter, of Sighthill Green, Edinburgh, admitted being concerned in the supply of heroin.
Hunter told police that he had been “house sitting” for his friend Knott for a few days.
When officers went into the property they came across Knott, who seemed “quite shocked”, and found the others in a bedroom and the living room. Knott told the court that the drugs had been dropped off at the flat but he could not remember when. He said he was mixing up the heroin and putting it in the press on his own.
Knott said threats had been made and told the court: “I was forced into the situation. I didn’t want to be in it.”
The judge deferred sentence on all three men for the preparation of reports and they were remanded in custody.
Chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police, David Strang, said: “Today’s convictions are the result of a significant operation for the force which represents our biggest ever drugs seizure, and I am pleased the hard work and comprehensive investigation undertaken by my officers has yielded positive results for the communities we serve.”
The ex-Hibees who fell from grace
KRIS Brown played with the promising Hibs under-18s class of 1999.
The squad, which was a launch-pad for the careers of Garry O’Connor, Derek Riordan and Ian Murray, also featured Jamie Ewart, who was the victim of a shotgun attack, and Liam O’Sullivan, who died after taking an apparent cocktail of drink and drugs.
Aged 24, Ewart was blasted with a sawn-off shotgun from four paces as he celebrated his former team’s CIS Cup final victory outside the Clermiston Inn in 2007. The centre-back was treated in hospital for a 10cm by 12cm wound on the upper arm. His assailant, labourer Nicky Robertson, then 20, was jailed for ten years for the “attempted assassination” of the former Hibs player, who had been playing for Bonnyrigg Rose at the time of the attack.
Talented defender Liam O’Sullivan, a teammate of Ewart, died after taking an apparent cocktail of alcohol and Ecstasy on a night out in April 2002.
Mr O’Sullivan had begun the fight back to fitness after a career-threatening injury when he tragically died.
The personal lives of established professionals O’Connor and Riordan have not been without trouble.
Last month, O’Connor was ordered to perform 200 hours of unpaid work in the community for possession of cocaine and obstructing police from performing their duties, before later announcing plans to appeal.
In 2005, Derek Riordan was rapped after being caught on video doing an alleged foul-mouthed chant about Hearts midfielder Rudi Skacel, for which he later apologised.
He was then banned from entering city nightclubs for one year in August 2008 after he verbally abused staff at the Berlin club, later extended to ten years after further infractions.
Result that cleans up the capital’s streets
THE head of CID at Lothian and Borders Police today hailed the convictions as a “fantastic result” for the force.
Gill Imery said: “We are delighted to see these three men being found guilty due to their involvement in the supply of such a large amount of heroin. Nearly £2m worth is the biggest seizure for Lothian and Borders Police, so it is fantastic to see them convicted and off the streets.
“These three people were caught in the act, and altogether we have arrested 31 people as part of this operation, ten people of whom have been convicted.”
Approximately 30 kilograms of Class A drugs with a potential street value of approximately £3.5m have been seized as part of Operation Congress, along with
firearms and £53,000 in cash.
The Sighthill seizure added to a total of £3.5m seized during 2010.
Last week, the Evening News reported how drugs worth at total of £2.4m were seized by police in 2011.
Heroin worth £825,000 and cocaine valued at £418,000 was recovered by police over the year, while £168,000 of crack cocaine was also seized.
Dealer is jailed after three crimes
A DRUG dealer who had been arrested twice in two days for selling narcotics was caught trading for a third time, a court has heard.
Shazad Ilahi, 30, was arrested in April after police saw him being beaten up by four men that he allegedly owed money to, Edinburgh Sheriff Court was told.
The court heard how Ilahi became known to police after they arrested him for drug dealing on December 20 and December 22, 2011. When officers went to stop Ilahi being attacked, they found he was carrying
dozens of small bags containing quantities of cannabis.
Ilahi, a prisoner of HMP Edinburgh, pleaded guilty to being involved in the supply of cannabis on various dates between December 20, 2011 and April 18, 2012.
Sheriff Nigel Morrison QC yesterday jailed Ilahi for 32 months.
Defence solicitor Kenneth Cloggie said: “He became involved in the supply of cannabis because he owed money to a number of individuals.”