A car wash owner was jailed for seven and half years today after helping in an organised crime operation with the potential to put £50 million of cocaine on the streets.

North Ayrshire man John Jackson played a key role in importing 250 kilos of benzocaine, which is commonly used to bulk out the Class A drug cocaine and, storing the cutting agent.

A judge told Jackson (33) at the High Court in Edinburgh: "It is used extensively in the UK by organised crime groups to adulterate and bulk cocaine, thereby vastly increasing stock and profit margins."

Judge Alison Stirling said the quantity of benzocaine could have been used to produce "at least 500 kilos of street cocaine".

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

The judge said: "Custody is the only appropriate disposal having regard to the serious nature of your offending."

She told Jackson that he would have faced a 10 year prison term for the drugs crime had it not been for his guilty plea to the offence.

Jackson, of McHardy Crescent, Barrmill, near Beith, earlier admitted being concerned in the supply of cocaine between August 19 and 21 in 2019. The offence was aggravated by a connection with serious, organised crime.

The benzocaine was imported from China to Glasgow Airport but police were alerted and undercover officers delivered the consignment.

After Jackson and helpers stored the load in a neighbour's shed, police carried out a raid on his home.

Advocate depute Shanti Maguire said the shipment of benzocaine could be used as a mixing agent to produce at least 500 kilos of cocaine.

The prosecutor said that could bring in pounds 25 million, but if it was perceived to be good quality cocaine with a high purity level the value would double.

The court heard that £720 handling fees for the shipment of benzocaine were paid from a bank account in Jackson's name. The consignment was marked for delivery to an industrial unit at Glengarnock.

Undercover detectives posed as staff from a freight firm to hand over the haul at a meeting with Jackson and two friends.

Jackson claimed to be called 'Andrew', and signed for the delivery and drove off, but was tracked to his home in Barrmill, where the men were seen lifting the load into a shed.

The court heard that Jackson was in rent arrears at the time but had cleared the £400 debt as a result of his involvement.

Defence counsel Callum Hiller said: "Since being arrested by the police on August 21 in 2019 he has focussed on his business and his family."

He said: "He did know he was ordering and collecting the benzocaine. What he did not know was the scale and intricacies of the operation above his level."

The defence counsel submitted that Jackson was "at the very bottom of the ladder" in the drugs operation.

Mr Hiller said that Jackson, who has a previous conviction for growing cannabis, maintained that he was gullible and misled. 

Rob Miles, operations manager of the National Crime Agency's Organised Crime Partnership, said: “This sentence comes as a result of strong partnership working with Police Scotland, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and Border Force.

“Benzocaine has legal pharmaceutical uses, and Jackson cynically attempted to exploit a legitimate company to get the product into Scotland and conceal his involvement in the cocaine trade.

“This seizure represents a substantial disruption of the crime group involved, denying them profit and reducing the availability of their product in Scottish communities.”

Detective Inspector Tom Gillan, of the Organised Crime Partnership (Scotland), said: “This is a significant landmark result made possible by a team of dedicated investigators and supported by COPFS office.

“It serves as a strong reminder to those involved in maximising drug profits that the OCP are committed to targeting all aspect of drugs misuse across our communities.

“This sends a clear message that law enforcement will continue to work closely with all partners, public and private, to reduce the threat, risk and harm that organised criminals impact across Scotland.”

Laura Buchan, Procurator Fiscal for Specialist Casework, said: “Illegal drugs do great harm to Scotland’s communities and it is vital we target every part of the chain in order to stem that harm.

“This includes prosecuting those who import and distribute benzocaine and other cuttings agents, and disrupting their operation.

“COPFS will continue to work with the Organised Crime Partnership and other agencies to tackle serious organised crime across Scotland.”