Drugs baron ordered to pay back �1m

A Norfolk drugs baron who was caught smuggling cannabis hidden in a lorry-load of flowers from Holland has been ordered to pay back more than �1m in ill-gotten gains.

Lance Lewis, formerly from Swaffham, was this week ordered to pay back the seven-figure sum after the Crown Prosecution Service successfully obtained an order under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

He was one of two men who tried to import nearly 200 kilograms of cannabis in a refrigerated lorry carrying flowers from the Hook of Holland through the port of Harwich.

A confiscation hearing at Norwich Crown Court determined how much Lewis, 42, of Common Road, Pentney, who was sentenced at Norwich Crown Court in August, should pay back.

Lewis had been jailed for six years at the hearing in August after he admitted conspiracy to supply Class B controlled drugs between January 1, 2009, and October 2009.

At this week's court hearing it was determined that Lewis had made just over �1m through his criminal activities and was ordered to pay it back.

He was told he had three months in which to pay back the first �100,668 instalment – with �908,240 left to pay.

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In August the court heard how, through a Norfolk police sting called Operation Amazon, Lewis and co-defendant Benjamin Heward, 47, of Woodhill Rise in Norwich, were caught unloading a Dutch-registered flower lorry in Station Road, Swaffham, on October 29 last year.

Hidden among the Dutch-bought flowers in the truck were 199 kilograms of cannabis with an estimated street value of �1.2m.

Detective Sergeant Rob Foreman, of Norfolk police, said: 'This investigation demonstrates the excellent work carried out by the Norfolk Constabulary Drugs and Serious Crime Squad and Economic Crime Unit.

'It is always our intention to bring such criminal enterprises to justice and, in so doing, depriving those convicted of their ill-gotten gains.'

It is one of the largest amounts seized from somebody in Norfolk under the Proceeds of Crime act - the act of Parliament which enables courts to remove assets which are obtained from a criminal lifestyle.

Successful orders see the money divided up, with half going to the government and the other half split equally between Norfolk police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Court Service.

Norfolk Constabulary said it uses most of the money it gets through the use of the act to pay for extra financial investigators, so more criminals can be brought to justice.

While Lewis admitted the charge last April, along with one of possession of a shotgun without a licence, Heward denied the charge of conspiracy to supply the drugs.

Heward was found guilty at trial and was jailed for nine years. He is due to appear at court in the New Year for a confiscation hearing to take place.

When the pair were sentenced, Judge Simon Barham said both defendants were 'equal partners in what was a criminal enterprise involving the importation of large quantities of cannabis from Holland to England'.