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»A second-hand car dealer who used his Hornchurch business as a front for major drug deals has been jailed for 10 years.

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Ben Rowley, 32, was caught with more than £4million worth of high purety cocaine at Frankie’s Car Sales in Upper Rainham Road.

The drugs were found along with a stun gun disguised as a mobile phone and four .32 calibre bullets when police raided the business on December 2 last year, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.

Following a surveillance operation, detectives watched Rowley arrive at the site in a Saab.

He went into his office and emerged a few minutes later to talk to a man in a Toyota on the forecourt.

Officers moved in to arrest him. They asked for the keys to his car but he threw them into some bushes where police dogs found them.

Officers recovered the keys and found five packets of white powder inside the Saab. It turned out to be just over five kilos of cocaine at between 87 and 93 per cent purity. Another 1.2kg of coke had been kept in a safe on the site.

Rowley also kept a set of digital scales in his office along with an industrial press used to mould drugs into one kilo packages.

Police calculated the street value of the drugs as being between £1million and £4.4million, depending on how pure they were when sold.

Rowley, of previous good character and who has a six-year-old daughter, gave no comment in his police interview but later admitted drugs and firearm charges.

‘Leading role’

Passing sentence, Judge Tudor Owen said: “You had a leading role in this conspiracy and, given its very high purity, the cocaine could not have been in the country for very long.”

Rowley, of Grays, admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs, being concerned in the supply of class A drugs, possession a concealed firerm and possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate.

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