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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Carlisle drugs 'godfather' made £78,000 but must pay back just £7,000

A notorious criminal dubbed “the godfather” of a major drugs operation will only repay £7,000 of his ill-gotten gains.

Aaron Giacopazzi photo
Aaron Giacopazzi

Aaron Giacopazzi, of Raffles Avenue, Carlisle, was the central figure in a criminal plot involving cocaine with a street value of £560,000.

He and eight other men were jailed for more than 60 years between them following a complex police investigation.

Giacopazzi, 47, who is currently serving a 16-year sentence, appeared again at Carlisle Crown Court as police clawed back thousands of pounds from him and six other criminals involved.

The court heard how Giacopazzi had benefited from his crimes to the tune of more than £78,000 – but will pay back less than £7,000 as that is the total value of his assets, which mainly include vehicles.

The six other men had benefited by more than £187,336 in ill-gotten gains between them.

Shabaz Choudry, 34, of Bradford, must pay back nearly £5,400. Ayub Khansia, 54, of Blackburn, was ordered to repay the entire £43,000 he benefited from after the cash was seized by police. Benjamin Morris, 36, of Blackburn, also has to pay back the whole £20,000 he gained from his actions.

Thomas Martin, 36, of Blackburn, must repay more than £6,000.

Paul Carney, 52, of John Street, Carlisle, was ordered to repay nearly £4,400. And Curtis Waite, 24, from Billingham, was told he has to pay back more than £2,300.

A ninth man, Christopher Brookes, 53, of Blackburn, is due to appear before the court on Friday.

They were sentenced last March after a police operation, codenamed Chamonix, which concentrated on the wholesale supply of class A and B drugs in Cumbria and across the north of England.

The case centred on two drugs plots in 2012.

One involved mephedrone bound for the streets of west Cumbria worth £19,000, the other involved cocaine with a street value of £560,000.

Giacopazzi, once labelled a dangerous gangster by a judge, was involved in both plots.

Judge Peter Hughes QC said during last year’s hearing: “You were the godfather of this operation, the essential broker who brought the two sides together.”

The court was also told how Giacopazzi acted as a link between a north east-based drugs gang and another criminal group in Lancashire.

On August 31, 2012, he travelled to Lancashire with his 56-year-old uncle, John Carney, of Raffles Avenue, Raffles, Carlisle, acting as driver.

Brookes was the contact for the Lancashire gang who were to buy cocaine. Two Lancashire gang members, Khansai and Choudrey arrived with £43,000 in cash, enough to buy half of the two kilos of cocaine involved in the plot. They parked their Audi in a Morrisons supermarket car park in Blackburn.

Giacopazzi and Carney soon arrived at the agreed meeting point for the deal in their Mercedes.

But Giacopazzi then switched to Choudrey’s car and was soon joined by an Astra van driven by a north east contact Waite.

Police swooped just as the drugs deal was about to be completed.

They found high purity cocaine – which had a street value of £560,000 – in the rear of the van and the cash that was to be used to pay for it in a shoebox in the back of the Audi.

Giacopazzi was arrested while Carney, who fled, was caught later. The court also heard of an earlier drugs plot when Giacopazzi and two other men – including drugs “mule” Paul Carney, another uncle from John Street, Shaddongate, Carlisle – travelled in a flat-bed truck to Blackburn.

Giacopazzi was later caught with £19,000 worth of the drug mephedrone.

Detectives involved in the major policing operation later described the complexity of bringing it to a successful end.

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