Criminal "boss" behind multi-million drug smuggling network convicted

13 Jun 2018

A man from Solihull has been jailed for 32 years for being the head of an organised crime group involved in the importation and supply of class A and B drugs on an industrial scale. James Mulvey, 42, was apprehended in Lithuania on a European Arrest Warrant in March 2017 following a two year investigation by the National Crime Agency.

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NCA investigators worked with the West Midlands Regional Asset Recovery team, HMRC, and law enforcement in over nine countries to collate and analyse extensive financial and telephone evidence which proved Mulvey was the mastermind behind a large scale drugs conspiracy in 2006 and 2007. Mulvey used bogus haulage businesses ran by members of his network to import cocaine and cannabis from Holland to Ireland via the UK. His right hand man Barry Phipps would use fake names to arrange collection of the drugs and rent storage space in the UK for consignments.

Phipps and four others were jailed for a total of 86 years in 2009. In February 2007, 20kg of cocaine, 364kg of cannabis and 10kg of cutting agent hidden in metal rollers destined for the UK was seized in Belgium. Analysis identified fourteen previous identical trips made as part of conspiracy one, during which there was the potential for Mulvey to have smuggled an estimated £68 million of drugs.

Following the arrest of his associates, Mulvey moved to Spain. Aware that authorities wanted to question him, he went on to live in various countries including Brazil, Holland and Portugal, before returning to the UK in 2012 due to his father’s ill health.

Once here, he became the subject of a surveillance operation by West Midlands Police and subsequently by the NCA in 2015. In one of a series of covert recordings, Mulvey admits to his involvement in the drug importations, saying:

“Remember I used to do bits and bobs, for what Barry [Phipps] got nicked off in Inkberrow...”

Inkberrow in Worcester was where Phipps would store cocaine in conspiracy two, before it was imported to Ireland hidden in loads of children’s inflatable sea scooters and miniature Harley Davidson motorcycles. As well as this admission, phone evidence placed Mulvey at the head of both drug trafficking operations.
Despite his continued use of unregistered pay as you go sim cards which he changed as often as weekly, NCA investigators identified a UK number and two Spanish numbers which were central to the conspiracies. Call records linking to key points during each importation, matched with cell site data from areas Mulvey frequented, meant the numbers could be attributed to him.

In further recordings, Mulvey also hinted at his illicit connections and standing within the criminal underworld. Following the murder of his cousin, Irish national Gerard Kavanagh, in 2014, Mulvey said:

“...but this is what my life was, I’ve tried to get away with it, but I don’t want you involved in it, do you understand how these people work... they kill the people you love.”
“Four, four, when we first started there was four bosses, me, Glasses, him [Kavanagh], whose just got shot dead and another kid. The other kids dead, he’s dead, so there’s just me and Thomas left mate.”

In the latter, Mulvey indicates that he and Kavanagh, who had previously been convicted for supplying class A drugs, were two of four in a fraternity of criminal bosses. In order to hide and access the vast proceeds of his crimes, Mulvey hired the help of accountants who allegedly created a complex web of transactions to move the funds from the Isle of Man through Monaco to Mauritius. Investigators identified that in excess of £7.8m originating from unknown sources had been accredited to one company in the Isle of Man.

As a result, Mulvey lived a lavish lifestyle which included the purchase of a €1.4million villa in Spain built to his specifications, numerous properties in the UK, high-end watches and cars, and a self-confessed £1000 per week cocaine habit. Once back in the UK, he lived in luxury hotels for short periods at a time before moving to another in his continued attempts to evade law enforcement.

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Today following a ten week trial at Birmingham Crown Court, Mulvey was convicted of four counts of importing and exporting class A and B drugs between May 2006 and February 2007. He will be sentenced later today. The NCA’s investigation into Mulvey’s finances remains active. Eighteen people have been arrested and remain under investigation.

Adam Warnock, NCA Birmingham Branch Commander said:

“James Mulvey did his best to live as a ghost, having no conventional footprints in terms of home address, assets or bank accounts.

“Regular changes of phones and constant overseas travel were part of his attempts to evade law enforcement.

“Over a meticulous two year investigation in which over 20 million documents were analysed, we evidenced Mulvey’s standing within international criminal circles and the damaging impact he has had on local communities.

“When Mulvey returned to the UK after five years, he thought he’d been forgotten by the NCA. We will never stop pursuing serious criminals like Mulvey and work with our international partners to ensure we track them down and bring them to justice.

“Our investigation into Mulvey and the proceeds of his crimes continues.”

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