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Drugs gang aimed to flood Highlands with cocaine and heroin via bases in Inverness and Elgin

By Ali Morrison

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A 'County Lines' drugs gang who planned to flood the Highlands with cocaine and heroin are behind bars.

The mob set up bases in Inverness and Elgin during the lucrative trafficking operation.

A judge heard how £2000-a-day was raked in from one house used for dealing.

Duncan Murdoch (29), Richard Pryce (31), Nathaniel Morgan (32) and Alexander Cobb (28) all appeared in the dock at the High Court in Glasgow today.

The had been due to stand trial, but instead pled guilty to being concerned in the supply of cocaine and heroin at different dates in 2018.

They will be sentenced next month.

The mob were targeted during the Operation Bantom police probe.

Prosecutor Graeme Jessop said: "The group operated on a 'County Lines' basis.

"This is a term used to describe a method used by criminal networks from major cities to expand their drug networks to more rural areas."

A Nottingham-based gang soon set up in Inverness and Elgin to ply their illegal trade.

Pryce and Morgan based themselves down south and were described as "receptionists" for the gang in control of phones to organise drug deals.

Cobb – also from Nottingham – was in the Highlands to manage "day-to-day" supply.

Murdoch, of Inverness, was recruited to bank dirty money and use his account to transfer funds.

Mr Jessop said: "It is not known the exact quantities of controlled drugs supplied nor the monetary value of the operation."

However, information was gleaned from local users while phone and financial records of the gang gave an insight to the scale of the crime.

Two "dedicated" phone lines were used – nicknamed 'Stix' and 'Jazz'.

Mr Jessop said there were 11,000 calls and texts made in just a month.

One message stated: "Everything same as before, but better service."

Pryce was also traced with having used one of the numbers while in Barcelona, Spain for a few days.

The advocate depute also told the court: "Between the dates, in excess of £50,000 was deposited in Inverness.

"This money was then dispersed in Nottingham via different methods."

The hearing was told heroin, cocaine and cash was found at a "holiday let" in Inverness booked during the operation.

Among other police seizures was at a rented flat in Elgin after Cobb and another man arrived to "establish another dealer base".

Judge Michael O'Grady KC remanded all four in custody and deferred sentencing until October.

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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