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DRUG lord Keith Harrison, who masterminded a multi-million pound cartel while on the run from prison, was jailed for eight years this week.
Harrison, originally from Coventry, fled to Holland while on home leave from jail and started trafficking drugs to the UK.
Police arrested the 50-year-old and 33 others after seizing ?25 million worth of Class A and B drugs including cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis as part of Operation Shearson.
Harrison was at the head of the network and used contacts he established while serving time at HMP North Sea Camp in Lincolnshire to set up the smuggling ring.
He escaped from the prison in September 2001 when he had over one and a half years of a seven and a half year sentence for manslaughter left to serve and went to live in Amsterdam.
There he used his profits to live the high life and once spent E11,000 in one night at a brothel.
He owned lavish apartments both there and in Breda, and had a fleet of luxury cars including an Audi TT and a pair of top of the range Mercedes.
Harrison co-ordinated the network from Holland, using partner in crime, 33-year-old Anthony Handley from Nottingham, as his go-between.
The gang was made up of criminals with various roles in the drugs ring, who were given underworld codenames.
Members included Alan Walker, the driver who was known as the 'Ostrich Man', Mark Ford who was in charge of distribution and money collection and nicknamed 'Goggles', Harrison's minder Steven Bower, or 'Little Baz', and boat skipper Bruce Saward, 'The Geezer'.
Dutch police made a breakthrough when intercepting telephone calls between Harrison's gang while investigating a drug-related killing.
The Dutch officers tipped off the National Crime Squad, who had Harrison on their 'most wanted' list of criminals.
Harrison was arrested in August 2003 in Belgium as he handed over drugs to traffickers for shipment to England.
Detectives later discovered Harrison made several visits to England during his two year spell on the run by using a fake passport in the name of Graham Harley.
Sentencing Harrison at Birmingham Crown Court last Thursday (March 31), Judge Richard Griffith-Jones said: Trafficking controlled drugs is a major worldwide problem.
"It's one of the most valuable trades and covers a considerable amount of crime committed in English cities."
Walker was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for his part in the plot, Ford to three and a half years, Bower four years and Saward six years.
Another gang member, the quarter master Adrian Haywood, was jailed for six years and drug runner Dale Wright was sentenced to a three year term.
During the investigation, police seized 870 kilos of cannabis worth ?1.9 million and 16 kilos of cocaine with a street value of ?848,000 in a swoop on a ferry from Rotterdam when it docked at Felixstowe.
Officers also found 1.2 million ecstasy pills worth around ?5 million at a farm in Holland.
After the sentencing, Det Insp John Cudlipp, who led the investigation, said he hoped it sent out a strong message to anyone thinking about drug dealing.
"Keith Harrison and his cohorts have paid a heavy price with their freedom in thinking they could make easy money through drug trafficking," he said.
"Harrison was the kingpin of the drug trade between the UK and Holland.
"We have now taken out a major supply route. Without doubt the streets of Great Britain are a safer place now we have stemmed this massive flow of drugs into the country," he added.