Gangsters who brought drugs to the streets of Hull have been jailed after being filmed while partying in Monaco.

Michael Rice, 26, filmed himself cruising around the streets of Monte Carlo in a convertible Bentley, having made huge amounts of money from vulnerable drug users in Hull, as well as other UK towns and cities.

Rice was the trusted right-hand man of Liam Cornett, who was himself filmed dropping a huge wad of cash while partying in the playboy's paradise, as he celebrated continuing to go under the radar of UK investigators.

The pair even got to ride in a helicopter on their big-money trip - paid for by the massive drugs operation they oversaw.

Cornett, 29, who had a home in Huyton, Merseyside, controlled the importation of cocaine, heroin and amphetamines into the UK, according to the Liverpool Echo.

Michael Rice, 26 and of Moses Street, Dingle, was responsible for selling drugs on the streets of Hull
Michael Rice, 26 and of Moses Street, Dingle, was responsible for selling drugs on the streets of Hull

Rice, 26, and of Moses Street in Dingle, oversaw the day-to-day operation on the ground, controlling drugs from their arrival in England to the distribution of the substances and sales all the way down to the streets of Hull, as well as Exeter and Anfield, in Liverpool.

Cornett was jailed for 26 years and Rice for 12 years and eight months when they were sentenced on Friday.

Rice's sentence was added to a six-year term already handed out for possession of a handgun.

Cornett, known as ‘the Lam’, was described as a “constant thorn in the communities of Merseyside” at an intelligence briefing before his allies were targeted in dawn raids across the UK.

Dozens of Merseyside Police officers listened as the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit detailed the targets of Operation Valkyrie in December 2018.

Most already knew his name.

Liam Cornett, a drugs gang boss from Huyton, dropping cash in Monte Carlo
Liam Cornett, a drugs gang boss from Huyton, dropping cash in Monte Carlo

As he climbed the criminal hierarchy, Cornett’s identity became entwined with the exploits of Liverpool’s underworld.

His name was known from the beat officers on the ground to the licensing officers keeping an eye on who was partying at which city clubs to the detectives tasked with investigating the region’s most serious crimes.

Cornett, who bought a home on Roby Road in Huyton, clocked up a record of dishonesty offences as a teenager before being jailed for affray in 2012.

Yet it was his activity abroad that saw him climb to become one of the most significant players in Merseyside’s criminal fraternity.

In 2014, Cornett was jailed in the Netherlands for crimes that effectively equated to attempted murder, threats to kill and causing grievous bodily harm.

The convictions arose from an incident in which he drove at a police officer.

The attack was not publicised because Dutch courts do not name defendants.

But it was known in police and criminal circles on Merseyside - as was the three-year sentence he received.

Liam Cornett, 29 and of Roby Road in Huyton, was jailed for 26 years for conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs
Liam Cornett, 29 and of Roby Road in Huyton, was jailed for 26 years for conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs

Cornett eventually based himself in Spain, where he made contacts that gave him to access drugs there and in North Africa. He then organised their importation into the UK and the Netherlands.

When he was questioned over the investigation that led to him being jailed this week, he did not deny he was a drug dealer - he instead argued the drug lines he oversaw related to cannabis, not Class A substances.

At Cornett’s sentencing hearing at Liverpool Crown Court, Henry Riding, prosecuting, said: “Liam Cornett has a home in Spain.

"It is common ground that for a number of years he has been involved in criminal activity in Spain, including the organisation of importations of controlled drugs into the UK and Holland from Spain and North Africa.

“His evidence was that it was exclusively Class B drugs and that he organised importations both for his own operations and on behalf of other organised crime groups.”

He was not charged in relation to any cannabis conspiracy but Mr Riding said the claims were relevant because they confirmed “he is a sophisticated and experienced criminal who is well-versed in the techniques of drug supply”.

The December 2018 raids that shattered his network were the climax of Operation Anvil, which had begun in the summer of 2017, when Cornett was living on the Costa del Sol.

Liam Cornett, one of Liverpool's most notorious criminals, in a Bentley in Monte Carlo
Liam Cornett, one of Liverpool's most notorious criminals, in a Bentley in Monte Carlo

By this stage the drug supply lines he controlled in Liverpool - typically around Breck Road -  and Hull were already making substantial amounts of money.

The profits funded a playboy lifestyle that saw him in party in one of the world’s most glamorous playgrounds - Monte Carlo, where he flew in a helicopter, rode in a convertible Bentley and was filmed throwing wads of cash in the air.

That holiday on the Mediterranean took place in the summer of 2017 and during the opening months of Operation Anvil.

Not content with the huge sums already available to him, around the same time he made extensive efforts to expand his network.

In August, September  - apart from the Monte Carlo trip - and October of that year Cornett spent much of his time in the UK plotting new hubs for his enterprise to exploit.

First Cardiff, where the gang sent amphetamines, then Exeter, where the Liverpool outfit simply took over the local trade and Plymouth, where they teamed up with a prominent local enforcer to sell cocaine and heroin.

Cornett would travel to meetings between top-level associates as he agreed the terms under which he would supply his drugs.

Often, detectives tracked lower-ranking figures of his as they travelled separately, sometimes, by train, carrying samples used to entice prospective gangland partners.

A £55,000 Rolex seized from gang boss Liam Cornett
A £55,000 Rolex seized from gang boss Liam Cornett

Once established, Cornett would play a hands-off role on the operations, allowing trusted associates to control the graft phone lines used by addicts to order their fix.

The conspiracies were slick and successful.

From June 2017 to August 2017 the phone number that controlled the Liverpool dealing operation received 17,407 calls.

From May to July 2017 the Hull line received 2,346 calls and in Exeter the phone number received 1,105 calls in its first week alone.

Detectives from NWROCU teamed up with those from forces on the south coast to bring Cornett down.

Undercover police officers posing as drug users captured details about how the gang worked on the ground.

Meanwhile, a massive surveillance operation captured snapshots of the gang’s exploits.

In the summer of 2017, Cornett spent nine days in a Dutch prison after returning to the country for a music event and being picked out as an “undesirable alien”.

Calls from jail made to his right hand man, Michael Rice, were recorded and revealed him ordering for the network to “stand still”.

In November 2017 one of his contacts had his suitcase searched ahead of a flight from John Lennon Airport to Spain.

Inside was £25,000, thought to be destined for Cornett. Police were also aware of him spending £53,000 on a new Audi during the course of their surveillance.

In December 2017, Rice was stopped by armed police in an Audi on Smithdown Road. He was in possession of a Glock handgun and jailed for six years as a result.

Despite the capture of his closest associate, Cornett remained active.

But over the following months an extensive collection of evidence provided the foundation for a European Arrest Warrant in his name.

Before it was signed off, detectives learned he was returning to the UK and decided they had no choice but to pounce.

They arrested him at Manchester Airport in October 2018. He was wearing a Rolex valued at £58,000 at the time.

The raids of the following December  took out what was left of his network  , which employed several dozen people at its height.

Cornett denied being the head of a Class A drugs conspiracy but was found guilty at a trial in the summer -  during which security fears sparked by his reputation led to the armed prison convoy that placed Liverpool on lockdown twice a day during his trial.

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