Robert Dawes to face French court next year over 1.3 tonnes cocaine seizure

ONE of the UK’s most powerful narco-traffickers will finally face the courtroom next year following his arrest in Spain almost two years ago.

Nottingham born Robert Dawes, 45, is charged with organising a 1.3 tonnes shipment of cocaine from Venezuela and seized in suitcases from a flight which touched down at Charles de Gaulle airport Roissy, Paris in September 2013, according to French prosecutors.

The moment Dawes was led away from his Spanish villa by Guardia Civil officers to face extradition to France

More details have also emerged about the case against the British crime lord from the French prosecutor’s indictment, including Dawes’ links to two British men arrested in Paris and to a wing of the Italian Camorra mafia.

According to French investigators, the operation against Dawes began on 8 July 2013 when information was received that a large consignment of cocaine was going to be sent from Venezuela to France via a passenger flight.  The information stated that a British organised crime group was behind the shipment.

More information came through to French investigators enabling them to tag Roissy airport about 20 miles from the centre of Paris as the destination point. On September 11 the shipment arrived in 31 suitcases belonging to “ghost” passengers. Having intercepted the shipment by stealth, French investigators then placed undercover officers via an informant into the baggage handling facility at Charles-de-Gaulle airport.

On September 16 2013 the undercover baggage handler’s phone rang. The voice was a man speaking in English calling himself “Marcus”. A meeting was arranged for that evening in Paris. Location? Under the Eiffel Tower. “Marcus”, the evidence will say turned out to be a 34-year-old Nottinghamshire born man called Nathan Wheat.

Nathan Wheat born in Mansfield in 1983 was a known associate of Robert Dawes who, like his boss, lived on Spain’s Mijas Costa. Records showed he had also visited Venezuela in April 2013. Investigators believe this would have been to oversee the logistics of the Caracas to Paris transport operation on behalf of Robert Dawes. Several Venezuelan police officers with alleged links to the Venezuelan outfit Cartel de Los Soles and a Caracas airport remit would later be arrested. At the Eiffel Tower meet, “Marcus” handed a Dutch-sourced Blackberry encrypted with PGP technology to the undercover baggage handler “Sergio” and told him this was to be the only form of communication to be used from there on. Similar Dutch-sourced Blackberry mobiles with PGP encryption would later be discovered when Guardia Civil raided Robert Dawes palatial villa

Dawes facing a Guardia Civil officer as his Mijas Costa home is raided in November 2015

in Benalmadena in November 2015. In court cases already dealt with, associates of Dawes were found to be in control of a mobile phone business registered at Companies House in the UK, selling encrypted sim cards with Blackberry phones at €2,000 a piece with branches all over the world. There was little legitimate business done by the mobile phone company. In reality, it was a cover for an encrypted network of communications designed to thwart all eavesdropping attempts by law enforcement agencies. One company director was jailed for 10 years in Portugal after being caught with a 167 kilo shipment of cocaine linked to Dawes. Another director, overseeing a cocaine shipment that went missing, was shot dead in Antwerp in 2012 leading to a wild west of tit for tat shootings in Netherlands and abroad which claimed upwards of 15 lives. Some of the victims were mistaken innocents and others were simply girlfriends or relatives of targets.

Oblivious the load had already been intercepted, Wheat then organised a meeting with “Sergio” at the Cafe Kleber in Paris. There Wheat gave the undercover baggage handler further instructions about where the shipment would be moved to and how it was to be split into four consignments. One split was just over 300 kilos which would go to representatives of the Camorra mafia gang from Naples. The Camorra shipment was allowed to travel out of the airport in a truck driven by an Italian before being stopped at the German border apparently on its way via Germany to a rendezvous in a Camorra held part of Italy. Two members of the Amato-Pagano clan linked to the Camorra, Vincenzo Aprea and Carmine Russo, both 49 years old, who had been dealing with Nathan Wheat were arrested and have been charged along with the lorry driver. Aprea is believed to be the Camorra clan’s representative in Spain.

The French authorities moved in on Nathan Wheat and his 30-year-old Nottingham colleague Kane Price. They were arrested while out shopping on the Champs Elysees. Price, who gave his occupation as a used car salesman, was bailed through lack of evidence, but after returning to the UK was then arrested handling a large amount of MDMA on behalf of a cell working for Robert Dawes. He was sentenced to three and half years following a court case at Stafford Crown Court in 2016. Wheat remains in custody in France.

Meanwhile, the Guardia Civil upped its monitoring of Dawes. Unable to break the encryption communications he was employing they resorted to tried and tested tactics used pursuing ETA terrorists. Surveillance of Dawes and his associates led investigators to a meeting at the five star Villa Magna hotel in Madrid on September 23, 2014. The meeting was between Dawes, a Columbian from the Medellin cartel and a Spanish/English interpreter. The Guardia Civil legally wired into the hotel’s CCTV and audio system to pick up the conversation and film the meeting. During the chat, Dawes revealed he could get narcotics shipments through most ports and airports in Europe through corrupt contacts. He mentioned contacts in ports such as Algeciras and Valencia in Spain, using ships from Venezuela and from Santos, Brazil, cargo planes in the Netherlands, ships from Morocco to Spain, containers in Antwerp, and shipments by commercial plane in suitcases through airports such as Brussels. Only the airport at Barajas, Madrid was impenetrable, he told the Columbians. His price was 30 per cent commission on the value of anything that went through the transport lines he controlled air, sea or land. Those networks would inevitably reveal a layer of corrupt officials within the import/export chain and law enforcement, whose loyalty Dawes had bought.

On tape Dawes was also caught boasting about the 1.3 tonnes of cocaine Paris shipment “the one that was in the news using the cases…that was mine”, he said. He appeared to be trying to convince the Medellin drug boss of his credentials. He was also caught telling the Columbian that the only way he would communicate with the Columbians would be via a Blackberry PGP encrypted mobile which he would supply to whoever he dealt with.

Robert Dawes discusses business over drinks with the Columbians at Hotel Villa Magna, Madrid

Dawes’ legal team, led by the so called “Jihadist’s Lawyer” Xavier Nogueras, are desperately trying to prevent this evidence from being included in the French court case, claiming that the material was illegally obtained. Dawes’ legal team is also interested in the use of informants in the case and in particular a reference in the case file to an infamous French drug smuggler Sofiane Hambli.

After the raid on Dawes’ Benalmadena villa on November 12 2015, the scale of his dealings has also become clearer. Documentation seized by Spain’s Guardia Civil investigators shows that the Briton had banking and telephone contacts spanning five continents in more than 50 countries including significant contacts in Afghanistan, UK, Malta, Syria, Italy, France, Netherlands, Nigeria, Finland, Somalia, Colombia, Pakistan, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and China.

Via his legal team, Dawes – currently being held at Fresnes prison near Paris – is expected to continue to attempt to water down the evidence which mounts against him and use delaying tactics in his case.

 

British crime lord charged in connection with record 1.3 tonnes cocaine haul

CRIME boss Robert Dawes has been formally charged by the French authorities after they seized more than 1.3 tonnes of cocaine at Paris airport.

The cocaine was seized from a flight from Caracas, Venezuela which arrived at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport in September 2013. It is the largest seizure ever made in France.

Dawes, 43, was flown from Madrid to Paris where was formally charged by investigating magistrate Anne Bamberger last week and remanded into custody pending a trial. It is understood the French have been investigating Dawes using sophisticated phone taps for at least the past 12 months after intelligence indicated he was behind the huge haul. Britain National Crime Agency and Spain’s Guardia Civil have been assisting the French in their investigation.

Robert Dawes now faces trial in France as the organiser of the record cocaine haul
Robert Dawes now faces trial in France as the organiser of the record cocaine haul

Several key lieutenants of his organisation from the Mijas Costa in Spain, were arrested at the time the haul was seized in September 2013 and have remained in custody since. Dawes was arrested at his family’s villa in Benalmadena, Spain last month. He has a string of front companies in the UK, Spain, Dubai and Malta which have provided safe docking for money-laundering over the last 13 years.

Dawes arrest was captured on film by a swat team of Guardia Civil officers who arrested the British man at his Benalmadena villa. Officers raiding his property discovered a number of firearms, hundreds of new sim cards for mobile phones and a state-of-the-art command and control centre where he operated from.

The moment Guardia Civil officers led Robert Dawes away for extradition to France
The moment Guardia Civil officers led Robert Dawes away for extradition to France

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, took a personal interest in the case when the bust was made revealing that some of the cocaine had been stored in at least 30 suitcases which had been tagged with the names of “ghost” passengers. This had been destined for Netherlands and the UK.

Investigators also seized another part of the load, around 400 kilos, from a lorry at the Luxembourg border which they believe was destined for the Italian mafia. Three Italians, and two British men connected to Dawes, were arrested at the time along with a number of National Guard officials in Venezuela who are believed to have helped the drug gang get the cargo past checks at Caracas airport.

Manuel Valls shows off the cocaine seizure in September 2013
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls shows off the cocaine seizure in September 2013

The French-led investigation has been supported by investigators from Spain’s Guardia Civil and the UK’s National Crime Agency.

As I have reported previously , Dutch, Spanish and British investigators are taking a keen interest as the process in France unfolds, as all still have the name of the British crime lord firmly on their list of cases unresolved. The merry-go-round has now started in earnest.

The beginning of the end for the crime family dubbed the A-team

AT AROUND 4pm last Friday a well-heeled couple sauntered down the pretty canal-lined streets which run parallel to Amsterdam’s Dam Square.

To most people they would have appeared to be nothing more than two of the thousands of middle-aged tourists enjoying a spot of afternoon window shopping on holiday in the Dutch capital. But when armed Dutch police officers swooped and arrested the couple as they reached Mosterdpotsteeg junction with Spuistraat, it was clear they were no ordinary tourists.

Dutch police had just detained 59-year-old Patrick “Patsy” Adams and his 55-year-old wife Constance, senior figures in the notorious Adams crime family from North London dubbed the A-Team. He was on the run and Britain’s most wanted.

Patrick Adams (left) and wife Constance Adams detained in Amsterdam
Patrick Adams (left) and wife Constance Adams detained in Amsterdam

In April this year, the Metropolitan Police quietly applied for a European Arrest Warrant to be issued against the couple in connection with the shooting in broad daylight of a former A-Team enforcer called Paul Tiernan on December 22 2013 in Clerkenwell. Despite gunshot wounds to the chest, Tiernan survived the attack and went on to later deny “one million percent” that Patrick Adams was behind the shooting.

The following month, the Met, having successfully applied for an arrest warrant, went public and issued photographs of the couple saying they were on the run, with the possibility they could be in Spain or Netherlands. Rumours subsequently abounded that they had in fact fled to Cyprus.

Alongside his brother Terry Adams, Patrick or Patsy as he often known, occupies a position at the very top of a well-oiled organised crime group which has brought terror to the streets and exercised a power which has even brought them to the attention of MI5 on the grounds of threats to national security. The A-team has been linked, since the early 90s, to more than 25 murders. In addition they have been involved in large shipments of class A drugs over three decades, and a myriad of other criminal enterprises from corruption and extortion to property fraud and money laundering.

The background to the arrest of “Patsy” and his wife is even more astonishing, if to be believed. According to the statement of the Dutch police , Adams and his wife were spotted wandering down Spuistraat by a police officer from the first floor of an overlooking police station. The officer, apparently specially trained in techniques of facial recognition, immediately linked Mrs Adams with photographs of the couple which had been distributed by British Police in May. The officer radioed to colleagues on the ground to follow the couple and ascertain if it truly was Britain’s most wanted. Shortly afterwards they were arrested and also linked to a safe house nearby which has been raided by the police and items seized.

A far more likely scenario is that British police had already tracked Adams through either sophisticated telecommunications or inside information and knew exactly where he was, and believed an arrest on the street would be safer having already ascertained where Adams was holed up. A knowledgeable source speculated: “In the war on organised crime it always helps if your enemy remains in the dark about the tools at your disposal. It would not be the first time that a cover story, if that is the case, has been produced to protect the back story to a high-profile arrest like this. If not its one of those one in a million chances that does sometimes happen.”

Another anomaly is that despite having clearly been informed the Met were on his trail, Adams thought Amsterdam was a safe haven. Adams could have chosen any one of a number of locations to lay low which do not have extradition agreements in place with the UK. Instead he chose one of the very locations police had flagged up as Adams’ potential sanctuary – perhaps Adams believed “the flat place”, as its known in criminal circles, was safe because the police had gone public.  Either way Adams must have known that co-operation between the British and Netherlands in cases such as this is extremely tight and will now have to shuffle his pack of cards like a magician to avoid being flown back to the UK in handcuffs.

According to Dutch sources the couple have indicated they are going to fight extradition to the UK. Dutch judges will have to rule on the application from the UK within the next three months.

There was more bad news for the A-Team. On the day the Met announced Adams and his wife were in custody in Holland, they also announced a raft of criminal charges against a number of other members of the A-Team including Patrick’s younger brother.

Michael Adams, 50, and his partner Deborah Heath, 48, were charged following series of raids carried out by Scotland Yard and HM Revenue and Customs, mostly across the north of the capital last year.

Adams was arrested at his Finchley home in April 2014 as part of Operation Octopod when more than 100 police and customs officers raided properties across the capital and south east.

He is charged with four offences of converting banknotes, knowing they were obtained from crime, falsely stating his income for tax purposes and two charges of money laundering.

Heath, who was arrested at the same time is charged with the money laundering offence of concealing banknotes.

Four others were also charged including retired chartered accountant Rex Ekaireb, 67, of Hendon, is charged with intent to defraud HMRC. It is claimed he falsely stated the level of income Michael Adams received for “consultancy work, commissions and introduction fees”.

Ekaireb’s son Robert, a property developer, was recently jailed for life for the murder of his Chinese wife Lihau Cao, whose body was never discovered. Police believe Robert Ekaireb was close to the A-team and had phoned Adams’ family associates at a West End club controlled by the A-team for help disposing of his wife’s body on the night of the murder.

His father Rex Ekaireb is also charged with converting criminal property to launder cash. Four others are also charged under the Proceeds of Crime Act. All six charged have been bailed to appear at Croydon Magistrates Court in October. 22 others arrested at the time of Operation Octopod remain on bail.

It seems that finally last orders may be about to be called on the A-team as police begin to fragment this tight organised crime group which has brought so much fear to the capital and spilled so much blood.

Goldfinger: A spider’s web of stealth, wealth and death..

John Palmer pictured in 2002
John Palmer pictured in 2002

By Carl Fellstrom, Tom Worden and David Connett
A top-secret surveillance operation monitored gunned-down timeshare fraudster John “Goldfinger” Palmer for at least eight years up until his death two weeks ago, it can be revealed.
The British operation, which drew upon listening devices placed by Spanish law enforcement, amassed a treasure trove of intelligence on organised crime figures from at least 2007. Fears about the operation being compromised by corrupt police officers resulted in it being established at a remote RAF base in the north of England.
A four-man team, some of whom retired during the course of the operation but were kept on for operational and secrecy reasons, was fed a daily diet of information about Palmer’s meetings and associations as he flitted around the globe and between Britain, Tenerife and mainland Spain.
Essex detectives investigating Palmer’s killing have requested help from the Spanish authorities about possible motives and suspects. It can also be revealed that Palmer, found dead in the garden of his Essex home in June, was shot in the chest and leg by a low-calibre weapon firing ammunition designed to cause maximum fragmentation inside the target.
The assassin had cut a hole out of a panel in the fence that surrounded the dead man’s secluded garden. Police have removed the panel for further examination.
The surveillance operation was based at an unlisted office within RAF Spadeadam, on the borders of Cumbria and Northumberland. The intelligence gleaned from the surveillance of Palmer and his associates led to a myriad of other operations being set up.
They picked up Palmer doing business with crime bosses from the UK, Russia, Romania and Spain, and created an intelligence file that read like a who’s who of organised crime, according to sources.
One former intelligence source with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, forerunner to the National Crime Agency, said: “They were being fed intelligence by the Spanish including phone calls and other surveillance material. It was kept as quiet as possible because of fears about corruption issues within British law enforcement, and legal issues surrounding the operation’s involvement with the Spanish and the obtaining of intelligence from those bugs.”
Palmer was charged with money laundering and fraud in Tenerife in May and was on bail. He was reputedly worth £300m, but investigators believe that figure was greatly exaggerated. In May 2005 he was declared bankrupt and all his assets, including seven timeshare resorts, were taken over by a trustee in bankruptcy. British police believe a number of his assets were taken over by the Adams family, the north London crime gang.
Spanish investigators tracking down Palmer’s assets found he owned a complex network of 122 companies, many offshore in the Isle of Man, Madeira and the British Virgin Islands, as well as 60 offshore bank accounts. The accounts were seized and the timeshare resorts were sold off for approximately £30m, mostly to Russian investors.
Palmer was sued in a group action by many of his thousands of victims and was ordered to repay them £4m.However, Spain’s tax authority seized the bulk of the money raised from the asset sales, leaving his victims with little prospect of recovering their money. He also spent around £5m in legal fees.
A source on the financial investigation estimated the criminal’s fortune to be nearer to £50m. The source said: “Palmer said he blew a huge amount of money in the 1990s on cocaine and girlfriends. He had a massive cocaine habit and the lifestyle to go with it – the private jet, the yacht, the Ferraris.
“He had four or five girlfriends at any one time, and would fly around the world on his private jet, to Barbados, Russia, the US, Germany, France, Switzerland. He also said he spent a fortune paying off judges, police officers and politicians in Tenerife.
“He said he once flew a private jet back from Russia full of cash. He was stopped at Madrid airport and bribed a policeman with a suitcase full of cash to turn a blind eye. Palmer had millions coming in in cash but blew millions at the same time. He used the 60 offshore accounts like personal bank accounts. His finances were complete chaos. So much of his business was done in cash, there was always a mountain of cash lying around in his Tenerife office. Literally stuffed in suitcases or lying around the office. He never paid tax and thought he would get away with it by bribing officials.”
Palmer’s yacht – Brave Goose of Essex – seized by a Spanish court in 2001, is worth much less than its reputed £1m value. An expert valued it at £400,000 but said it would cost £250,000 to make it seaworthy. “If you untied it from the dock it would sink,” the source said. Palmer’s collection of classic cars from the 1940s and 1950s, worth around £500,000, was allowed to corrode in the sea air in a Tenerife pound.
While Palmer was declared bankrupt and was officially broke, his partner Christina Ketley, who he met when she worked for him as a timeshare rep in the 1980s, was not. The house in South Weald, Essex, is in her name as is a two-storey flat overlooking the sea in south Tenerife. Ms Ketley, 55, is a director of seven companies in Spain and five in the UK. Prosecutors recently tried, but failed, to have her assets frozen.
She is facing fraud and money-laundering charges in Spain, and could be jailed for up to eight years if convicted. Last week prosecutors said they expect the case against her and nine others, including two of Palmer’s nephews, to go ahead at Madrid’s National Court.
Prosecutors alleged Ms Ketley ran Palmer’s business while he was jailed in the UK (he was sentenced to eight years for fraud in 2001, serving four). Sources close to Palmer insist he had no intention of pleading guilty to charges in Spain and a senior prosecution source described suggestions of a plea bargain as “pure fantasy”.
A defence source said Palmer vigorously denied the charges and had no intention of pleading guilty. He was due to fly to Madrid for a defence strategy when he was murdered.
The source said: “John Palmer was not a grass and he had no intention of becoming one. We believed there was every chance the case against him would have been thrown out.”
Before his death, friends say he was helping Ms Ketley run her Tenerife restaurant. He had his bail varied to return to Britain for surgery.

Dutch crime lord linked to Dawes cartel gunned down in Amsterdam

A MAJOR figure in the Dutch underworld was gunned down last night in a surburb of Amsterdam.

Gwenette Martha, 40, died in a hail of bullets after three gunmen dressed in balaclavas unleashed a volley of automatic fire as the Dutch crime lord was walking in the Amstelveen district of Amsterdam in the mid-evening. The gunmen may have sped off in a BMW which was later found burnt out, according to some reports. Martha was pronounced dead at the scene, punctured by at least 80 bullet wounds, according to reports in the Dutch media http://bit.ly/1kpsf7x . The assassins were believed to have used AK-47 automatic rifles in the attack.

Gwenette Martha dead at 40
Gwenette Martha dead at 40
The scene of Martha's execution
The scene of Martha’s execution

Martha, had been linked to the Dawes cartel, headed by British criminal Robert Dawes, as far back as 2002. Martha was one of five men who visited the home of 52-year-old Gerard Meesters in November 2002 to threaten the school teacher to tell them the whereabouts of his sister Janette Meesters. The Dawes Cartel believed that Janette and a friend had stolen a large quantity of drugs belonging to Robert Dawes. A few days after the encounter with Martha, Mr Meesters, a complete innocent who had not been in contact with his sister for years, was shot dead in the hallway of his home in Groningen, Netherlands. Dawes Cartel member, Daniel Sowerby, was jailed for life for the murder and Martha received a prison sentence for supplying heroin to Sowerby and for threats against Mr Meesters in the days before the murder.For the past year the lucrative cocaine and heroin trade has been been at the fulcrum of an Amsterdam gang power battle; it has culminated in a series of fatal tit for tat shootings involving two major groups of criminals. One group was headed by Martha supported by a biker gang. Martha had been suspected of ordering the murder of two rivals in 2012 linked to a shadowy Moroccan mafia group. A series of thefts of large shipments of cocaine are believed to have increased tensions between the two groups. In December last year Martha himself survived an assassination attempt when a gunman jumped out at him but the assailant’s weapon jammed.

Martha himself had only recently been released by police after being arrested in April over the possession of two firearms. Observers and law enforcement in Netherlands fear the death of Martha may now provoke an escalation in the war which could see the recent bloody drug war in the country reach unprecedented levels of violence.

Video showing the aftermath of Gwenette Martha’s death.