'Scottish FBI' arrests over 70 crimelords
MORE than £33 million worth of drugs have been seized and a record number of crime bosses arrested in the past year, according to figures that reveal how Scottish police are cracking down on serious and organised crime.
The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) - nicknamed Scotland's FBI - said it had been able to use better intelligence to pinpoint "soft spots" in sophisticated criminal operations.
It said more so-called "Mr Bigs" than ever had been arrested in 2010-11. Over that period, 73 of the 195 people taken into custody were "level 3" criminals and effectively ringleaders of major crime gangs, compared with 136 arrests, with 67 at level three, the previous year.
SCDEA director general Gordon Meldrum said: "Better intelligence is helping us to pinpoint just where the soft spots in these organisations lie. That's why disruption has included working with our partners to take action on tax evasion, on the leasing of high-value cars, on suspending licences for taxis, security firms and haulage, on environmental health, on benefit fraud, on business loans and mortgages, on product safety, and even on animal cruelty."
Many of those cases are still going through the courts, but SCDEA conviction numbers have also increased, with 43 last year against 29 in 2009-10.
Previous convictions have included major players in the drugs trade, such as Sohaib Qureshi, who trafficked cocaine in Scotland, the Caribbean and South America.
Qureshi, from Bearsden in Glasgow, was arrested in April 2009 and jailed for 12 years in March this year as a result of the SCDEA's Operation Klaxon.
A separate operation, Bakus, led to David Carpenter, of Leith, being jailed for 31 months, and Luis Rodrigo Hidalgo, an Ecuadorian living in London, for 11 years. The pair were involved in importing 6kgs of high-purity cocaine, with a street value of more than 4.5m, hidden in pouches of jam sent from Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador to Edinburgh.
The agency's annual report also showed a record of 1.26m in cash recovered from criminal gangs - six times the amount of the previous year.
Justice secretary Kenny Mac-Askill said: "Every arrest made related to serious organised crime is a step towards getting these despicable groups out of our communities".
James Kelly, Scottish Labour's community safety spokesman, said: "Given that Scotland continues to hold the unenviable title of the cocaine capital of the world, it is clear there can be no let-up in the fight against serious and organised crime."
David Sinclair, of Victim Support Scotland, said: "It would be a mistake to see the tackling of 'Mr Bigs' as being disassociated from victims. Every crime has a victim and with drugs; there are many, many more affected."
The vessel was searched in Southampton before it could complete its journey to Netherlands
The yacht Louise left Venezuela bound for Europe with a hidden cargo of cocaine
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