Stephen Grattage and Alex Menary successfully prosecute biggest police drugs seizure in Yorkshire history

August 21, 2023

Exchange Chambers’ Stephen Grattage (leader) and Alex Menary have successfully prosecuted a drugs ring which smuggled more than £1bn of cocaine into the UK in boxes of frozen chicken.

Cherie-Anne Rayner, 29, Liam Harrington, 38, and Megan Budden, 22, were arrested in Leeds and Dewsbury last year as part of the biggest police drugs seizure in Yorkshire history.

They admitted charges during the third week of a Sheffield Crown Court trial.

They will be sentenced in November alongside five co-conspirators.

Five men from Leeds, Dewsbury, Glasgow and Birmingham had previously pleaded guilty to drug supply charges.

The eight defendants all had “high-end” roles in a criminal supply chain in which “vast” shipments of high-purity cocaine were imported from a Mexican cartel and broken up to be sold on to British dealers, prosecutor Stephen Grattage told the jury.

The trial heard “blocks and blocks and blocks” of the drug, as well as a note bearing the name of the Nueva Generacion Cartel, were found in Rayner and Harrington’s home in Flaxton Street in Beeston, Leeds.

Police who raided their flat on 10 September last year discovered 141kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of £14.1m in a locked room along with 33kg of crystal methamphetamine worth nearly £5m.

A further 57kg of cocaine worth £5.8m was found stashed in holdalls, plastic bags, cupboards and the bedroom in Budden’s flat in The Crescent, Dewsbury, during a raid on 10 November, the court heard.

On 15th December, vehicles being driven by Steven Gibson and Darren Hunter were stopped and found to contain a total of 120 kg blocks of cocaine valued in excess of £12 million.

Prosecutor Stephen Grattage said Budden had assisted her partner Brandon Maan, 23, who was paid thousands of pounds a month to store, repackage and transport cocaine for an unidentified drugs kingpin known only as “Fendi”.

Cherie-Anne Rayner’s brother Stephen Rayner, 30, also worked for Fendi as a “manager on the ground,” the court heard.

Budden, Cherie-Anne Rayner and Harrington all initially denied conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

But Rayner changed her plea to guilty last week, while Harrington and Budden admitted an alternative charge of participating in the criminal activities of an organised crime group.

Maan, of Churchbank Way, Dewsbury, Stephen Rayner, of Scargill Grange, Leeds, Steven Gibson, of Belsyde Avenue, Galsgow and Tabrez Hussain, of Cuthbert Road, Birmingham, each previously admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Darren Hunter, of Queenslie Street, Glasgow, has admitted possession of cocaine with intent to supply.

All are due to be sentenced on 9 November.

A ninth defendant, Mazafer Hussain, 43, of Foxton Road, Birmingham, denies conspiracy to supply cocaine and will stand trial in April.