A supergrass thought to be the UK's most prolific informant has gone into hiding after his evidence helped jail 29 dangerous gangland criminals for more than 250 years.
Over the course of six trials, the witness, who will now be a target for life, gave crucial evidence against the defendants.
One of the criminals he helped put away was a gang boss from the Balkans who masterminded the smuggling of millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UK from Brazil.
His role, reminiscent of Ray Liotta's FBI informant Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese's mobster movie Goodfellas, can be reported today after he and his family were given protective custody.
The informant was a cocaine dealer who fell out with his associates and was kidnapped and tortured over debts he owed before he decided to give evidence.
He was linked to a number of different groups and had crucial information about a wide range of offenders and crimes, including a shooting and arson.
Prosecutors said his assistance was "on a wholly unprecedented and exceptional scale".
The supergrass was in the witness box for a total of 41 days during the six trials amid tight security, and has now been set up with a new life.
Officers from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit revealed the extent of the witness’s information following the final trial at Teesside Crown Court.
His new identity is now protected by a court order as they fear he will be a target for revenge.
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Detective Inspector Alan Turner said: "The criminals who have been put behind bars are significant organised crime group members within north-east England and further afield.
"That includes an international level criminal from Montenegro, based in Spain.
"Without the evidence of this witness, they would not have been brought to justice."
In return for his evidence, the supergrass was given a 15-month suspended sentence instead of a 14-year jail term.
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Among those he helped imprison are Yvan Nikolic, a major Balkans criminal who was sentenced to 21 years for conspiracy to supply cocaine.
The 56-year-old arranged to have the drugs shipped in from Brazil so they could be transported to the North East and sold.
Co-accused David Gloyne, from Plawsworth, County Durham, was the head of an organised crime gang and was also jailed for 21 years after he was convicted of conspiracy to supply, kidnap and false imprisonment.
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Police launched Operation Everest in response to escalating violence as criminals fell out following the seizure of £2 million worth of cocaine at Tilbury Docks, Essex, in August 2015.
After the supergrass was recruited to bolster the case against his associates, he had to give a full account of his criminal activities in which he "came clean" so his evidence could not be undermined by the defence. He admitted 23 offences.
Detective Inspector Turner said: "If they enter into the contract, there is a line drawn in the sand – you may well have been a criminal and a liar and been up to all sorts but from this point on, you have to abide by the contract.
"He made it abundantly clear in 40 days of cross examination – he was in fear for his life well before the agreement, he was at risk of serious violence and people had committed serious assaults on him.
"You may not like the police, but in this case his and his family’s safety was the big motive."
Detective Sergeant Paddy O’Keefe added: "The judge said he is going to have a target on his back for the rest of his life."
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