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Members of UK drug-smuggling gang jailed for total of 72-years

Members of UK drug-smuggling gang jailed for total of 72-years

Six members of a drug smuggling racket responsible for £166 million worth of cocaine being imported in to the the UK have been jailed for more than 72 years.

The men were arrested as part of Operation Bayban, a Metropolitan Police probe into a criminal network involved in the importation and onward supply of more than 500kg of class A drugs.

Besnik Berisha, 57, of Trento, Italy was sentenced to 14 years and three months imprisonment; Xen Mucaj, 39 from Basingstoke, Hampshire was jailed for 15 years and nine months, and Akili Ismalaj, also known as Antonios Kontaktsis, 30, of no fixed address, was sentenced to 15 years and nine months imprisonment.

Also sentenced were Marijn Kolaj, 20, of no fixed abode, who was jailed for 10 years and six months, and Shpetim Xhamxhiu, 33, of Winchmore Hill, Enfield, who was jailed for nine years, and Denis Cangu, also known as Emilio Longhi, 23, from Palmers Green, Enfield, who was jailed for seven years and six months.

They had all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs at Kingston Crown Court.

A seventh man, Koui Admir, 27, of Mintern Close, Hedge Lane, Enfield was sentenced to six months imprisonment, having pleaded guilty to money laundering.

Berisha imported up to 50kg at a time, using his Iveco HGV. He would enter the UK around every 10 to 14 days, carrying a legitimate load, and the drugs stashed in the cab.

During his journey he would meet Kolaj, Xhamxhiu or Mucaj, and hand over the drugs.

They would then be taken to either Mintern Close in Enfield for onward distribution, or to Hertford Court in Palmers Green for mixing with other substances.

Berisha, Kolaj and Xhamxhiu were arrested in Enfield on May 9 last year, and almost 50kg of cocaine and heroin was recovered.

A search of the Mintern Close property revealed around £10,000 cash and a false UK passport. Mucaj and Admir were arrested there.

A search of the Hertford Court property, where Cangu was arrested, revealed a drugs "safe house" with 21kg of "mixing agent", a drug press, scales and other drug-related paraphernalia.

The investigation found Kolaj and Xhamxhiu were travelling to Northampton to supply class A drugs to a criminal network based in Wellingborough.

Ismalaj was also arranging and facilitating the supply of drugs from within prison, using a smuggled mobile phone.

Detective Inspector Jerry Troon, of the Met's Central Task Force, said: "These sentences are a satisfying culmination of months of painstaking police work by officers from the Met and East Midlands, who worked closely to dismantle this conspiracy and seize millions of pounds worth of drugs destined for our streets.

"If you deal in drugs we will find you, we will arrest you and you will be put in front of the courts to face the consequences of your actions. Law enforcement agencies will be one step ahead of you, and when convicted you will face lengthy prison sentences."