7/7 rescuer jailed over major drug ring

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by ITN News

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A hero fireman honoured for rescuing victims of one of the July 7 bombs has been jailed for his role in a £100 million cocaine ring.

Simon Ford, 41, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.

He risked his life getting victims off the bus which was blown up in Tavistock Square, London, in 2005.

But the former drug addict is now serving a jail term after admitting he was a key player in a major network of underworld crime gangs.

His case is able to be reported after the final member of the 35-strong gang were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court.

The court heard how ringleaders netted more than £100 million in cash via a run-down but heavily fortified taxi garage under the Westway in Paddington, central London.

Royal Oak Taxis received huge consignments of cocaine ready for repackaging and distribution and served as a one-stop money laundering shop for crooks who swapped bags of sterling for smaller 500 euro notes.

Ford was one of 22 people arrested when officers from Scotland Yard's Special Intelligence Section (SIS), supported by more than 500 colleagues, raided homes across London and the Home Counties in February 2008.

The simultaneous raids, the largest conducted by British police, employed a mechanical digger to ram through a wall of one Uxbridge home and followed ten months of surveillance and bugging.

The Soho-based firefighter was caught red-handed at his flat in Guildford Street, Chertsey, as he divided more than 100 kilos of cocaine, worth around £5.5 million, for delivery to a ring of couriers waiting at service stations around the M25.

A second man, cage fighter Aman Salhan, 28, of Oxford Avenue, Harlington, west London, was also found in the flat. He was jailed for 17 years after a jury found him guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine.

As officers searched the flat, dozens of phone calls were made to three pay-as-you-go mobile phones as worried criminal contacts tried to find out why the pair were running late.

Detective Superintendent Steve Richardson, head of the SIS, said the operation dealt a "huge blow" to the British class A drugs industry.

The investigation, known as Operation Eaglewood, began in April 2007 after undercover police officers followed two known drug smugglers as they met a mystery accomplice.

The money laundering and drug distribution network was linked to up to ten criminal gangs and had interests in Colombia, Spain, Israel, India, Dubai, Morocco and other north African states.