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Six drug dealers jailed for 87 years as police crack coded chats

L-R: Ali, Baldwin, Bush-Jones, Dare, Gibbons, Long

Six drug dealers who supplied up to £5,022,000 worth of high quality drugs have been jailed for a combined 87 years after their encrypted drug deal chats were cracked by police.

Tarian, the regional organised crime unit for southern Wales, along with Gwent Police welcomed the sentencing of the men at Newport Crown Court yesterday (Tuesday 13 December), following a joint investigation named Operation Arcturus, involving the use of the ‘Encrochat’ secure mobile device platform.

Evidence obtained during the investigation shows that Steven Gibbons was the head of an organised crime group (OCG) based in Newport. The OCG was involved in the wholesale supply of cocaine and heroin throughout south Wales.

Gibbons posed as a legitimate businessman in the Newport area with several ventures including Leeway Motor Company, but a substantial amount of his wealth stemmed from his illegal drug actives.

He had numerous customers that he supplied drugs to in kilogram quantities, and was well-connected; he was able to source controlled drugs and had contacts worldwide.

Stephen Baldwin operated as Gibbons’ ‘right hand man’. Baldwin would collect cash from and supply drugs to people, as instructed by Gibbons.

In May 2020, police identified a vehicle, being driven by Paul Long, which had travelled from Liverpool to Newport. Long was stopped by police in the West Midlands where he was found in possession of almost £200,000 in cash.

A subsequent search of Long’s Liverpool address revealed wholesale drug supply paraphernalia (electronic cash counting machine, industrial hydraulic press and mixing tools). It was uncovered that Long collected this money from the Gibbons OCG as a payment or part payment for controlled drugs.

Other members of the OCG included Joshua Dare (who had his own multi-kilogram drug supply network within Newport), Mark Bush-Jones (again having his own drug supply chain in Newport) and Abdi Ali who also worked for another OCG based in Newport.

The six men, all but Long from Newport, appeared for sentencing for drug offences:

  • Steven Gibbons, 34, was sentenced to 19 years
  • Stephen Baldwin (aka Decker), 50, was sentenced to 18 years
  • Abdi Ali, 49, was sentenced to 14 years
  • Joshua Dare, 31, was sentenced to 13 years
  • Paul Long, 47, from Liverpool, was sentenced to 11 years and six months
  • Mark Bush-Jones, 36, was sentenced to 11 years and six months

Detective Inspector Matt Houghton, of Tarian, said: “We welcome the sentences given to these men for their roles in smuggling and selling very significant amounts of Class A drugs in south Wales.

“This long running investigation with our partners uncovered a major drug conspiracy and is a real example of the very close work carried out between police to combat this kind of organised crime.”

He added: “We would urge anyone across southern Wales who has information about drug dealing in their communities to contact their local police force or the independent Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Detective Superintendent Andrew Tuck, of Gwent Police, said: “This was a very detailed investigation and has brought to justice six people involved in the supply of Class A drugs in the Newport area.
“The operation is a good example of the collective work between Gwent Police and the Regional Organised Crime Unit and serves a strong reminder that we remain committed to taking action against anyone involved in illegal drug activity.

“Illegal drugs have no place in our society, and the offenders in this operation were part of an organised criminal gang who caused harm and misery in our communities through the supply of drugs.
“We encourage people to continue to report any such concerns so we can take action.”