£4.3million 'chief financial officer' to Coggins brothers arrested in Amsterdam

Vincent Coggins
Vincent Coggins -Credit:NWROCU

The “chief financial officer” to the Coggins brothers was arrested in Amsterdam.

Paul Fitzsimmons played a “critical role at the core of the conspiracy” led by Vincent and Francis Coggins, which involved the trafficking of hundreds of kilograms of class A drugs worth millions of pounds across the country. Members of the organised crime group also plotted a ruthless vendetta of violence after a raid on their stash house by rival gangsters saw them lose in the region of £1m of illicit substances.

A series of court cases heard over the past four years have been subject to a media blackout until this week, following the conclusion of the trial of co-conspirator Edward Jarvis. Details of Fitzsimmons’ sentencing hearing back in August last year can therefore now finally be reported.

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Liverpool Crown Court heard on this occasion that the 61-year-old arranged couriers and deals with buyers on behalf of the Coggins and acted as their “accountant, bookkeeper and banker”. Alex Langhorn, prosecuting said: “He was, in effect, the operation’s chief financial officer.”

Fitzsimmons, of Birch Tree Court in West Derby, was said to have “answered directly to Francis Coggins” in this role. Using the handle “NorthKnee”, he was personally involved in the handling of £4.3million in cash and the supply of 87kg of class A drugs on a “conservative estimate”.

The granddad has a total of eight previous convictions for nine offences, including for possession of drugs with intent to supply in 1984, but had not been before the courts since 2006 prior to his involvement in the Coggins OCG. Fitzsimmons spent 94 days in custody in the Netherlands following his detention abroad before he was extradited back to this jurisdiction.

Alex Rose, defending, said on his behalf: "The primary role, we accept, was that he was employed to count or record money earned by the conspiracy. He was trusted, on occasions, to handle large quantities of cash and drugs.

"We submit that he played a managerial role. We accept that, although that was his primary role, his secondary role did involve a degree of directing others.

"We accept that he was acting as a middle man between couriers. Instructions were coming from on high, there was very limited autonomy.

"He is getting his hands dirty. He is physically involved in moving money."

Mr Rose added that his client had not been involved in discussions following the raid on Paul Glynn’s house, which resulted in a “loss in the order of a million pounds”. He told the court: “The robbery of the stash house controlled by Mr Glynn is very important in this conspiracy.

"Those in direct communication about that include Mr Jarvis, Mr Woodford and Mr Burrows. Mr Fitzsimmons was not at the table at any stage for any of those conversations."

Fitzsimmons was meanwhile said to have suffered from “deteriorating health”, while his ex-wife also “suffers from severe mental illness”. Mr Rose said: "When he has been in this country, he has been paying for private treatment.

"His instructions are that he was recruited in January 2020 at a time when she was in a very bad way. His wages were significant.

"That is why he became tempted at that time. It is a very long time ago since he was convicted of anything.

"He has done a lot of good in the past. One of his daughters was burnt in an accident.

"He became determined to get her the best treatment and became involved in a campaign to save a burns unit from closing. Playing that role, a supportive role to his estranged wife and trying to save a hospital and be a good father, is in the starkest possible contrast to the criminality he is to be sentenced for.

"He has asked that none of his family members attend because he is ashamed."

Fitzsimmons admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin. Appearing via video link to HMP Liverpool, he was jailed for 12-and-a-half years and handed a five-year serious crime prevention order to begin upon his release.

Sentencing, Judge Robert Trevor-Jones described the conspiracy as having operated on a “quite massive scale”. He said: "It was brought to an end after the investigation into the EncroChat data.

“You have only recently been prosecuted because you had gone to Holland. You had to be extradited, that process beginning in October last year when you were arrested by the Dutch authorities in Amsterdam.

"It is abundantly clear that you fulfilled a leading role. Your role, on any view, was a critical role for the conspiracy.

"You are essentially the right hand man of one of the overall heads of this organised crime group. You were in extensive contact with Francis Coggins.

"You performed a number of roles. You were concerned with and oversaw the bank.

"You performed, in effect, an accountancy role. The term chief financial officer is, in my judgement, an accurate one to reflect a critical role at the core of the conspiracy.

"You were placed close to Francis Coggins in a very high level of trust to play a wide range of important roles.”

Vincent Coggins, aged 58 and of Woodpecker Close in West Derby, 58-year-old Paul Woodford, of Marl Road in Kirkby, and 48-year-old Michael Earle, of Wallace Drive in Huyton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs and conspiracy to commit blackmail. They were imprisoned for 28 years, 28-and-a-half years and 11 years respectively.

Dean Borrows, aged 39 and of Ledson Grove in Aughton, and 46-year-old Darren Tierney, of Chatham Street in Stockport, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin. They were handed respective terms 14 years and three months and 12 years and nine months.

Kevin Rimmer, of Blacklow Brow in Huyton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin. The 57-year-old was locked up for 16 years.

Paul Glynn, of Croxdale Road West in West Derby, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine. The 59-year-old was given 11 years and two months.

Edward Jarvis, of Breckside Park in Anfield, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A drugs and blackmail. The 59-year-old will be sentenced at a later date.

Francis Coggins has not yet been apprehended but is wanted by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit. He is believed to be abroad in Europe.

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