Jail for florist Gary Pattison following £23m Valentine's Day cocaine bust
A FLORIST who hid £23.5 million of cocaine in Valentine's Day flowers has been jailed for 18 years.
Millionaire businessman Gary Pattison, 52, smuggled packages of drugs in boxes of yellow chrysanthemums.
Pattison, whose three businesses generated £2 million, turned to crime out of greed to fund his lavish lifestyle.
Jailing him for 18 years, Recorder Martin Simpson said Pattison used his business as a cover for the operation, the largest ever seen in East Yorkshire.
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He said: "There came a time when your business was not making the profit that was keeping you and your extended family to the lifestyle that you had become accustomed.
"It can only be that you were motivated by financial gain – that is the inescapable conclusion.
"The harm which would have taken place had these drugs got through customs doesn't need to be imagined because of the huge quantity."
Sheffield Crown Court heard Pattison used his haulage business, Sharron Pattison Logistics, to smuggle the drugs into Hull docks.
They were hidden among a delivery of roses, tulips, carnations and chrysanthemums collected from the world's largest flower market in Holland and destined for his florist shop, also called Sharron Pattison and based at North Point Shopping Centre in Bransholme.
The money paid to him went to prop up his failing haulage business and fund his luxury lifestyle and grand home in Woodmansey, complete with its own gym and bar.
The court heard he was stopped at Hull Docks on February 10 and the drugs were found in three boxes of flowers.
Pattison's fingerprints were found on two of the boxes.
Throughout his six-day trial, Pattison claimed had no knowledge of the drugs but the jury of ten men and two women took just three hours to return a unanimous guilty verdict.
His barrister Neil Flewitt QC said Pattison had fallen into temptation.
He said: "To have put trust in him with such a high amount of drugs he must have been close to those but it does not put him in a leading role.
"He has unfortunately fallen into temptation. He was a successful and well-respected businessman and he has lost all that.
"There is no suggestion he is involved in any organisational capacity or these were his drugs. He was working on this occasion, as the jury has found, for somebody else for financial reward as the Crown put it."
Pattison, of Ferry Lane, Woodmansey, now faces losing his fortune under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Financial experts have launched an investigation into his assets and will seize any made through illegal criminal activities.
Mr Flewitt QC said: "He stands to lose all his businesses he has acquired over the years by the confiscation proceedings."
Recorder Simpson said Pattison had played a crucial role in the smuggling operation.
He said: "I draw the inescapable conclusion you were well trusted by those even higher up the scale of this illegal operation and that you were using your own business and were not merely a lorry driver, but you were the owner.
"It is impossible to concede those involved, even bigger criminals, trusting someone with whom they didn't have a sufficient relationship with to rely upon them with millions of pounds of drugs.
"A courier you may have been but a courier at the top of the trade and who must have been trusted.
"You were the one doing the difficult bit bringing the drugs through customs and out of Hull docks so they could be distributed. I'm satisfied you played a significant role."
Pattison's family wept as he was led from the dock to begin his sentence.