THREE men have been jailed for their parts in a large scale operation which brought class A drugs into the UK from Spain and the Netherlands.

Darren James Roberts, Daniel Lee Taylor and Stephen Metcalf appeared at Mold Crown Court via video link on Friday afternoon.

The court heard 47-year-old Roberts, of Cadnant Drive in Bagillt, 41-year-old Taylor, of Glan y Don in Greenfield and 43-year-old Metcalf, of Fairway North in Bromborough, were involved in the criminal enterprise from May 2019 to October 2020.

Headed by a person who is 'still at large abroad', the operation entailed the use of the UPS 'waybill' service, which is a document issued by the company to acknowledge possession of a shipment.

The group sent empty waybills to suppliers overseas, who would fill them out using the names of real companies.

Legitimate companies selected had no idea their names were being used to cover the importation of class A drugs into the UK.

The group used the system to not only get free postage on the items, but also avoid them arriving by air in order to prevent them from being x-rayed.

Deeside's UPS depot was always chosen to send the parcels to, because Daniel Taylor was a team leader there.

The parcels were always sent on days which saw them arriving when he was on shift and on one occasion when a delivery was delayed, he volunteered to work a Saturday in order to receive it.

When they were arriving, he'd turn up to work in the early hours of the morning and intercept them - scanning them out as if they'd been collected.

He used the names of colleagues who worked alongside him to do so, but none of them had any involvement.

After scanning them out, he'd meet Roberts in the vicinity of the depot and hand them over to him.

Ffion Tomos, prosecuting, said one day in September last year the parcels were followed by police.

The were seen being handed on by Roberts to Metcalf on the Wirral. He then put them in his boot and drove away.

Four parcels were intercepted during the conspiracy - three containing large amounts of heroin and cocaine worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and in one case £1m, and one with blank waybill sheets.

The court heard the group used the UPS method on 150 separate occasions with a potential value for items not seized - reaching many tens of millions of pounds.

Keith Sutton, defending Taylor, said: "He is a man of previous good character with no previous convictions who has worked all his life and provided for his family.

"He's clearly a devoted family man and he's watched the impact of his actions on his family and those who know him. "He put the blame squarely on himself for that. He's devastated and he's not sorry that he has been caught - he's sorry for what he has done."

John Trevor Parry-Jones, defending Roberts, said: "His family can't believe he became involved and sitting back as he does now, he can't believe he became involved.

"He couldn't work and he needed some money, but once you've dipped your toe in the water you fall in and there was no way out.

"It's no excuse, but I am afraid that is what happens to people who dance with the devil. He's a destroyed man."

Brendan Carville, defending Metcalf, said: "He's a family man and he's fallen from grace in a dramatic way."

Judge Rhys Rowlands told the three: "The three of you played crucial roles in a very sophisticated enterprise with huge quantities of class A drugs sent from Spain and the Netherlands into this country.

"You'd have been aware of the scale of the operation and the risks you were running, going behind your families' backs who, I accept, have been decimated to find out what you have been doing.

"The aggravating features include the sheer scale of the operation - with the potential of causing untold misery across our communities here in North Wales, Merseyside and further afield."

Judge Rowlands handed each of the men a 15 year custodial sentence.

He added: "The police need to be congratulated for their work in bringing this matter to a conclusion - a lot of hard work has been done here."