A drug boss has been sentenced to nine years in prison after admitting to directing associates to flood Scotland with cocaine from South America.

Paul Fleming, 39, admitted to organising the smuggling of cocaine from Brazil, Colombia, and Bolivia into Scotland over a period of just over four years.

The father of four also set up a fake company in Spain in order to ship the drug inside of solar panels.

Several men involved in the operation were arrested and convicted for drug dealing and money laundering, with two police operations, Operation Fertile and Operation Buggy, revealing the extent of Fleming's connection.

He and his wife were arrested in 2018 following a police search which uncovered £37,000 in cash in his car and a collection of watches worth £50,000 in his home.

Fleming and his wife fled to Spain, but were tracked down and arrested in Alicante before being extradited back to Scotland having failed in an asylum claim.

The Herald: Generic image of cocaine

At the High Court in Glasgow he admitted to directing others in the importation, sale and supply of cocaine and cannabis at various locations in the United Kingdom, Europe and elsewhere; to identifing and utilise a number of premises for the purpose of storing and concealing controlled drugs and money; to arranging for the importation of prohibited firearms and ammunition; to suppling and use encrypted devices to send and receive messages regarding the sale, supply and importation of controlled drugs, firearms and ammunition; concealing, disguise, convert and transfer criminal property by hiding cash in premises and vehicles, converting and transferring cash throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, all in the interests of furthering organised crime; and laundering dirty cash by using it to buy designer watches.

At the High Court in Stirling he was sentenced to nine years for "a number of serious offences" under the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.

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Fleming had a previous drug dealing conviction for which he received 43 months in prison, and a number of convictions for road traffic offences.

Sentencing, Lord Colbeck said: "The gravity of the charge to which you have pled guilty is such that there is no other method of dealing with you other than by the imposition of a custodial sentence.

"The maximum sentence open to the court for a contravention of section 30 of the 2010 Act is one of 14 years imprisonment.

"The extent of the criminality to which you have pled guilty is such that I am satisfied that a custodial sentence at the upper end of that available to the court is appropriate. The headline sentence in this case is one of twelve years imprisonment.

"I am required by law to give you credit for your plea of guilty, that is to recognise the value such a plea has to the administration of justice, however, that credit will be restricted to reflect the fact that in any trial many of the witnesses would have been police officers and the fact that you required to be extradited from Spain and then delayed that extradition by claiming asylum (which application was rejected by the Spanish courts).

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"I recognise that a section 76 letter was signed by you on 22 May 2023, you having first appeared on this matter on 3 March 2023.

"Having regard to these considerations, I will discount the headline sentence by 25%, which reduces it to one of 9 years imprisonment."

Sineidin Corrins, Deputy Procurator Fiscal for Specialist Casework at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), said: “This was a brazen and coordinated effort to smuggle significant quantities of illegal and harmful drugs into Scotland. 

“However, this conviction serves to reinforce the determination of prosecutors to protect communities from the harm that these drugs inflict on people’s lives. 

“The public can have confidence in the response of the justice system to combat Serious Organised Crime and in our resoluteness to prosecute and convict high-profile nominals. 

 “We continue to target all those who threaten communities across Scotland, working as a key part of the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce to protect the people of Scotland.” 

Katie Stewart, who leads on international co-operation for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, said:   

 “Fleming's conviction underlines the importance of COPFS working closely and collaboratively with international justice partners to robustly pursue those who break the law and ensure they are fully held to account for their crimes. 

 “The extradition of Fleming shows that such close working relationships between foreign authorities delivers justice for Scottish communities blighted by serious organised crime.”