A BOLTON man has appeared in court today charged with importing 'billions of pounds' worth of cocaine and heroin into the UK.

In what prosecutors have dubbed the UK's 'biggest drugs conspiracy'. Steven Martin, 49, and seven others, have been accused of vast drug importations into the UK from the Netherlands over a two-year period.

All eight have appeared at Manchester Crown Court today for allegedly smuggling cocaine, heroin, cannabis and amphetamine between 2016 and 2018 under the cover of bogus fruit and veg firms.

They were involved in packing drugs into pallets, mostly with ginger, onions and garlic to hide the smell, in the Netherlands and transporting them to various warehouses in the north west to be unpacked and distributed.

Martin, of Chorley Old Road, Bolton, originally known as Steven Walker, is accused of being involved in the three conspiracies to import the drugs, named after the bogus company names used (Pot Fresh, Amstelveen and Blackpool), dropping out after this third conspiracy, before being arrested in March 2018.

After dropping out after the third conspiracy he "went on to do other things" which included buying a brewery with the proceeds he got from being involved in the businesses, the court heard.

Paul Green, 55, from Widnes, is accused of being the 'ringleader' of the many different groups involved with Martin, "another of the principal organisers".

Andrew Thomas QC, prosecuting, said: "For most of the indictment period, the second defendant Steven Martin acted as his (Paul Green) finance man, using bank accounts in the names of co-defendants’ and their businesses to pay for their various transactions.

"Steven Martin was involved in the logistics of the operation and also in the finances, operating bank accounts which had been opened in the names of various puppet account-holders, and in the names of the various front companies.

"The prosecution say that he was directly involved in the first three conspiracies: Pot Fresh; Amstelveen and Blackpool.

"He appears to have dropped out at the end of March 2018, following his arrest in relation to the earlier conspiracies. By then he had bought himself a brewery and moved away from the importations."

Mr Thomas QC told the jury: "You may find the stench of crime overpowering. As we understand it, all of the defendants in this case will claim that they are innocent of any crime at all. The evidence of criminality is obvious."