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Man who smuggled £5m of cocaine in fruit consignments jailed

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image captionKevin Hanley planned to use strawberries, cauliflower and broccoli when the police foiled the plot

One of Britain's most notorious drugs barons, who smuggled cocaine worth £5m in watermelon and pomegranate consignments, has been jailed for more than 17 years.

Kevin Hanley, 52, was considered the "top, top man" in the drugs world, the Old Bailey heard.

He was convicted of plotting to supply heroin, amphetamines and cannabis, as well as money laundering.

He was arrested in Greece after his Chelsea safe house was raided.

'High-flying lifestyle'

He had been on the run for eight months with his girlfriend, Greek TV station owner and presenter Chrysi Minadaki, 45, of Cadogan Square, Chelsea.

He was caught when he went to an Irish pub in Athens.

Following his extradition back to Britain, Hanley, of Moore Park Road, Fulham, was jailed at the Old Bailey for 17 years and four months.

He pleading guilty at a hearing earlier this week which can now be reported as restrictions have been lifted.

Minadaki, who had enjoyed a "high-flying lifestyle", was also jailed for 17 years while Hanley's right-hand man John Fowler, 58, of Billing Road, Chelsea, received 16 years.

Both, like Hanley, were convicted of plotting to supply heroin, amphetamines and cannabis and money laundering.

The court heard that Hanley went back to his criminal ways within months of leaving after prison after nine years.

He found a source of cocaine in Venezuela and used Fowler's legitimate fruit and vegetable business as a front to bring the drugs into Britain via Greece.

Minadaki provided the lorries and the fruit as cover for the drug smuggling, the court heard.

'Harrowing misery'

There were plans to use strawberries, cauliflower and broccoli when the police foiled the gang's plot.

When officers raided Fowler's Chelsea flat in November 2012, they found cocaine worth £2.5m, amphetamines worth £200,000, skunk cannabis worth £61,000, more than £2m in cash and two cash counting machines.

Judge Wendy Joseph QC said on Wednesday: "To spell out the harrowing misery (of drug dealing), it's not just the lives of the users, but the misery caused to the families of the users and the victims of the crimes committed in order that drugs can be purchased."

Two men already serving jail terms in Belmarsh Prison for supplying heroin worth £8m in Scotland were sentenced for the cocaine plot. Matthew Edward, 49, and Richard Harrison, 58, will serve six years, 10 months, and five-and-a-half years respectively.

Darren Barker, 49, who is in Lewes Prison, was sentenced to three years and nine months for the amphetamine plot.

Ian Doherty, 47, of Greenend Road, Chiswick, who had been found with £160,000 cash in a holdall, was sentenced to six months for money laundering.