Doncaster man dubbed ‘UK’s cocaine Mr Big' loses latest bid for freedom

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A Doncaster man once dubbed the 'UK’s cocaine Mr Big’ has lost his latest bid for freedom after he was denied the right to take his case to the Supreme Court.

Russell Knaggs, aged 44, was one of five men jailed for a total of 73 years in 2012 over a plot to smuggle five tonnes of cocaine from Columbia.

Russell Knaggs, Philip Hadley and Robert Rich

Russell Knaggs, Philip Hadley and Robert Rich

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They were convicted of conspiring with others to import a huge shipment of the drug to the UK in what was described by the police at the time as ‘like a Hollywood movie’.

Knaggs, originally from Conisbrough but now behind bars at HMP Doncaster, was serving time at Lowdham Grange Prison in Nottinghamshire when he orchestrated the plot.

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Phillip Hadley, now 58 and originally from Conisbrough, was to provide the money for the operation.

Robert Rich, now 46 and originally from Barnsley, met external contacts, attended meetings and went on three expeditions abroad.

Columbian Jesus Anibal Ruiz-Henao, now 57, who was serving time with Knaggs at Lowdham Grange, was to use his connections to obtain the drugs.

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But their plot failed when the gang lost their down payment on the first batch of cocaine when their Colombian contact was gunned down by a rival cartel. 
No drugs were ever imported and the men always maintained their innocence.
But Knaggs was jailed for 20 years, Hadley for 18 years, Ruiz-Henao for 16 years and Rich for 14 years.

A fifth gang member, Anthony Perger, then 51 and from Sheffield, pleaded guilty to the offence in 2012 and and was jailed for five-and-a-half years.

Knaggs, Hadley and Rich lost a case at the Court of Appeal in August when they claimed their convictions were based on illegally obtained covert material, including email monitoring in the US.

This week they took their case to the Court of Appeal again to apply for permission to take it to the Supreme Court but had their bid turned down.

Knaggs was serving a prison sentence for his part in a major drug trafficking ring when he tried to mastermind the cocaine smuggling operation.

He was jailed for 16 years in 2003 for his part in one of the country’s largest drug networks at the time, which had flooded the Midlands and north of England with millions of pounds worth of cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and amphetamines from a house in Doncaster.

The gang members, who were snared after a National Crime Squad surveillance operation, were jailed for a total of 90 years between them.

Knaggs, who was 29 when he was jailed, admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.