A GANG tried to smuggle millions of pounds' worth of drugs into Bolton, only to be stopped in their tracks twice, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Steven Martin, of Chorley Old Road, Bolton, is in the dock accused of playing a key role in the UK’s ‘biggest drugs conspiracy’ between 2016 and 2018.

Manchester Crown Court heard how two conspiracies to import millions of pounds' worth of drugs into the UK from Holland, to a warehouse in Tonge Bridge Way, Bolton, and Arley Way, Atherton, were foiled by Dutch customs and police.

Martin and others attempted to import drugs, including heroin, cocaine, and cannabis, by setting up bogus fruit and veg companies and transporting drugs within ginger, garlic and onion boxes from Holland.

The prosecution alleges Paul Green, from Widnes, was the ringleader of the many different groups involved with Martin, “another of the principal organisers”.

Andrew Thomas QC said importations began in April 2016 in the names of Mazzmo and then Total Fresh with Martin “involved in these transactions, but he remained in the UK”.

Martin and Green set up a fictional man named Ross Peters who made contact with Dutch logistics companies to transport foodstuffs to the UK on pallets.

The prosecution allege Peters organised delivery of consignments from Holland to units in Tonge Bridge Way and Arley Way, from August 17 until September 16 when eight kilos of cocaine was discovered in one of the pallets at the Dutch ports, worth £962,000

This led to another conspiracy, ‘Amstelveen’, to import amphetamine into the UK from Holland in October 2016. This was foiled after three men were arrested in Holland.

Mr Thomas added: “What the investigation showed was that the people behind these arrangements were Paul Green and Steven Martin. They were paying the organisers. They were paying the bills and they were giving instructions to the men on the ground in the Netherlands."

Broad and Leonard were tasked with shipping the drugs to the UK with Green and Martin co-ordinating it from the UK, the prosecution alleges, but the whole time police were tracking the conspirators across Holland.

Broad and Leonard collected the drugs but decided to have a night out in Amsterdam before returning to the UK the next day which angered Green and Martin, with telephone conversations between Green and Broad played in court.

Mr Thomas said: “Green and Martin were plainly concerned at the news that the drugs were going to be left unattended. Steven Martin immediately rang and spoke to Broad and Leonard to remonstrate.”

This proves, according to the prosecution, that Green and Martin new exactly what was going on, despite what they have since claimed.

The next morning they “got into the van and started to drive off, but at that point the Dutch police moved in to arrest them”.

Fifty-seven kilos of amphetamines was discovered by police with a street value of over £1.7m on its way to the UK.

Mr Thomas added: “Paul Green was not arrested and interviewed about this allegation until March 2018.

"He said that he had sent Broad to the Netherlands to collect a consignment of wine.

"He admitted involvement in the arrangements. He claimed that the drugs had been put into the van by Sean Page without his knowledge and consent.”

But the prosecution argue that Martin and Green knew they were importing drugs to their warehouses in Bolton and Atherton.

Martin, Green and others deny drugs importation charges. The trial continues.