The kingpin of an organised crime group that controlled one of the largest amphetamine laboratories ever found in the UK has been jailed for 18 years.
National Crime Agency investigators identified encrypted messaging platform EncroChat was being used to run the lab near Redditch – capable of producing 400 kilos of amphetamine per month, worth £2 million at wholesale and up to £10 million at street level.
The crime group would then distribute the drugs to dealers in the West Midlands, London and Kent.
Leader John Keet, 42, of Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire, invested profits from a career dealing cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines into building and managing the lab.
He paid for his right hand man, Keith Davis, 62, also of Chalfont St Giles, to undergo chemistry training to enable him to operate the site.
Andrew Gurney, 52, of Quinton, Birmingham, known as ‘The Geek’ due to his specialist electrical installation and plumbing skills, converted what had been a double garage outbuilding into the drugs lab.
Gurney also received the same chemistry training as Davis.
Elliott Walker, 49, of Kidbrooke, south London, was an associate of Keet, and purchased specialist equipment for the lab.
Keet pleaded guilty to all the charges during an earlier hearing at Kingston Crown Court , and was jailed for 18 years at the same court today (10 May).
NCA Branch Commander Matt McMillan said: “John Keet was the mastermind behind this operation, and created one of the largest drugs factories ever found in the UK.
“He even paid for crime group members to undertake chemistry training, so that the drugs produced yielded the highest profit possible.
“These drugs were being supplied to other crime groups, and will have fuelled violence, fear and exploitation in communities across the UK.
“By closing down this lab and dismantling this crime group, the NCA and its partners have protected the public.”
The NCA’s investigation formed part of Operation Venetic, the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of the EncroChat encrypted communication service.
Officers evidenced work started on the lab in March 2020 and it began producing drugs in May of that year. The gang initially bought amphetamine pre-cursor chemical benzyl methyl ketone (BMK), but quickly realised it was more profitable to make it themselves.
Following weeks of surveillance, NCA officers raided the site in Ullenhall Lane, Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire, on 27 April 2021, with assistance from Warwickshire Police.
Plumes of noxious fumes billowed from the outbuilding when it was opened by specialist crews from West Midlands Fire Service, who had to wait several hours before searching it due to the hazardous chemicals inside. Waste products from the production process, which had been flushed into the sewerage system, had also contaminated a nearby field.
The gang members were all arrested on suspicion of drug offences at their home addresses on the same day the factory was raided.
Davis and Gurney were convicted on 8 June last year, following a 12-day trial, and jailed for five years and six years and three months respectively on 10 June.
At a hearing on 21 September, the Court of Appeal ruled that the previous sentences were unduly lenient and a Judge increased them to 10 years each.
Walker pleaded guilty to conspiracy to producing class B drugs (amphetamine) on 17 September last year and was jailed for six years on 14 December.
10 May 2023