Video footage has emerged showing the inside of one of two Breaking Bad-style labs which had been raided after being discovered in an operation to supply deadly fake prescription drugs.
Four suspects were arrested, and cash, drugs, and guns were seized in dawn raids on May 17 as police intend to put an end to the gang's multi-million-pound racket.
Police carried out raids at nine addresses in Swinton, Seedley, Pendlebury, and Wigan in Greater Manchester, which uncovered two labs for making benzodiazepines – known as "street benzos".
These were found in premises in Albion Street, Swinton, and a semi-rural house in Lower Green Lane, Astley.
The Astley property was shown in a video on Manchester Evening New's website with all the equipment used to make the drugs the gang was selling on the streets of Cheetham Hill and the Strangeways area of Bury New Road.
The highly sophisticated equipment had been installed in both labs, and it is believed the gang had been making drugs in Astley for years before expanding to Swinton more recently. Substitute chemicals for the drugs, which sell for 50p each, are thought to have been sourced in China.
A senior police officer said the seizures, after Operation Mayfly, a three-month investigation including a surveillance operation, were of "huge significance" in terms of disrupting a key supply line. It is estimated that each lab had the capacity to produce 200,000 tablets an hour.
Detective Chief Inspector, James Faulkner, of GMP's Serious Organised Crime Unit, said: "[This] is the culmination of three months of work in relation to the illicit production of and supply of counterfeit class C drugs, predominantly, benzodiazepine.
"That is linked to a wider operation, Operation Cranium, which is to counter the threat from Cheetham Hill, of counterfeit goods, and drugs.
"There is illicit counterfeit medicines being sold in those areas. I can hazard an educated guess that from the volume of drugs produced in this operation it is almost certain that some of them will have landed up on the streets of Manchester and Cheetham Hill in particular, but we can't at the moment link them scientifically at the moment."
He added: "We do know from intelligence that there were orders for pills from these two labs in the millions. We recently intercepted a haul of drugs on their way to Scotland – 2.6m tablets were seized. It would appear they were producing tablets to order.
"On the face of it, it would appear both labs were making the same products. It is counterfeit diazepam. The 2.6m seized were counterfeit benzodiazepines – street benzos.
"They are made with a drug called etizolam, which is a substitute for benzodiazepine. The drugs recovered in the seizure were of reasonable quality. But they were made with this substitute which they source via China and other routes.
"We suspect they have been operating, particularly from the Clover Cottage site (Astley) for a couple of years. The pills sell for between 50p and a pound, so it is staggering sums of money that are being made."
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Following warrants, four men, aged 42 to 77, were all arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply class C drugs. A 42-year-old was also further arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life.
Around £20,000 in cash and assets including Rolex and Omega watches worth approximately £30,000 were seized, along with three firearms and ammunition, which are awaiting further testing to see if they are viable.
The guns were found in a shipping container next to the Astley premises. One of the guns is a bolt-action rifle, the others are handguns.
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