TWO men involved in a drugs factory which could churn out millions of pills dubbed the “Blue Plague” are behind bars.

James Carroll was jailed for five years and three months while ex-soldier Michael Shek was sentenced to three years and nine months.

Carroll, 56, and Shek, 35, were snared after police swooped on a 4,000sq/foot industrial unit in Mary Street, Johnstone in April 2019.

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  • Pictures courtesy of the Crown Office

The sophisticated set up was capable of producing a huge haul of Etizolam tablets - also known as ‘street valium’.

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Both were sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow on Friday having earlier pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of the drug.

Lord Mulholland said the operation was on an “industrial” scale.

He told the pair: “This was an Etizolam pill factory.”

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When officers raided the unit, Carroll was washing a BMW car while Shek - wearing orange gloves and white dusty clothes - dropped a metal punch used to press pills.

Tubs of powder, etizolam tablets and substances used to mix drugs were found in a lorry and a trailer.

Other related equipment was seized from the office floor of the unit.

The etizolam powder recovered had the potential to produce 772,137 pills worth up to £386,060.

A further 5,425 ready made tablets were recovered which could reach a potential value of £2712.

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Prosecutor Mark Mohammed said: “The remaining quantity (of a substance used in the manufacture of the drugs) had the potential to produce 10,595,125 etizolam tablets.

“This would require additional etizolam powder.”

Police went on to seize a £10,000 Rolex watch and £5,645 cash from Shek’s home in Renfrew.

A tracker in a car he hired showed he had visited the drugs factory twice while he had the vehicle.

DNA also linked both he and Carroll, also of Renfrew, to the crime.

Joseph Barr, defending Carroll, said he had been in debt after losing his sales job.

Mr Barr: “He saw this as a quick solution to his mounting problems.”

Shek’s lawyer John McElroy said the ex-squaddie had previously served three tours of duty in Iraq.

Both were also hit with a three year Serious Crime Prevention Order designed to monitor and tackle criminals on their release from jail.

Kenny Donnelly, Procurator Fiscal for the High Court, said:

 “I hope that these convictions and the sentences imposed send a strong message to others involved in this kind of criminal behaviour and demonstrates the ability of police and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute serious and organised crime.

“As a member of Scotland’s Serious and Organised Crime Taskforce we will continue to work with our partners to ensure that these crimes are detected and those responsible prosecuted using all measures at our disposal.

“The serious crime prevention orders imposed on the accused today will restrict their activities and make it harder for them should they choose to return to crime when they are released from prison.”