Five men have admitted their involvement in a drugs factory which was capable of churning out up to 130,000 pills dubbed the ‘blue plague’ each day.
Kyle Byrne, George Stewart and John MacLeod admitted being involved in the supply of Etizolam at a flat in Main Street, Dalry, Ayrshire, between February 1 and March 26.
Co-accused Lee MacLeod admitted being concerned in the supply of the drug on March 26 and Paul Gaughan on March 23.
The High Court in Glasgow heard that ringleader Byrne initially was running the operation from Barlinnie Prison until his release at the end of February.
He made 44 phone calls to John MacLeod and 16 to Stewart between February 2 and 27 while behind bars.
Prosecutor Michael Meehan QC said: “Within a number of calls they talked about working with motor vehicles as code for the production of drugs using a pill press.
“In the calls, there were references to associates, cash amounts, weight, the quality of the pills, the press jamming and cleaning a clogged-up pill press.”
The court heard that Stewart sent on Whatsapp two images – one of him holding a very large pile of cash and the second showing a man lying on the floor surrounded by piles of cash.
On March 16 he sent an image of the pill press in operation to someone called Shelby with the message: “This is what a do lol no night clubs or that am way the same ppl every day so am all good.”
Mr Meehan said: “This was in response to concerns expressed around Covid-19.”
The court heard that 253,399 tablets were seized as well as powder capable of making a further 178,769 pills.
The maximum street value was £216,084.
Police experts said that the pill machine in Dalry, Ayrshire, was capable of making approximately 130,000 tablets a day which would have a maximum street value of £65,000.
Mr Meehan added: “The tablets were manufactured in a pill processing factory set up in the kitchen/dining room of a first floor flat by Byrne, Stewart and John MacLeod.
“They also between March 11 and 26 used a self-storage unit at Store First in Linwood to store mixing agents and another pill machine.
“The other two accused were involved in operating the pill machine in Dalry each for one day only.”
Mr Meehan told the court that the machine in Dalry, which would cost around £6,000 to buy, could produce approximately 10,000 tablets an hour.
Police received a tip-off on March 26 that drugs were being made in the flat in Dalry and raided the premises.
Stewart and Lee MacLeod were inside when police arrived and Byrne and John MacLeod turned up during the search.
The clothes of all four were covered in white powder and when forensically analysed were found to contain Etizolam.
Messages from Stewart’s phone led to the arrest of Gaughan.
Judge Lady Scott deferred sentence on all five accused and deferred sentence until October 1 at the High Court in Edinburgh.
Defence counsel will give their pleas in mitigation then.