December 6 2013 Latest news:
Peter Walsh, Crime correspondent
Friday, September 28, 2012
A judge blasted four members of an organised crime gang for causing “misery” on the streets of Norfolk by bringing cocaine worth £750,000 into the county from London.
The capital to county drugs trail was revealed yesterday as Judge Stephen Holt jailed four men for a total of more than 15 years after the drugs ring was smashed by police.
Judge Holt said: “It’s quite clear to me this was a serious and well organised drugs ring which, had it not been stopped, would’ve continued to this day bringing misery; misery to those who are addicted to drugs, and misery to the greater public whose homes are broken into, property stolen by those addicted to drugs requiring them to feed their habit. It brings misery to large numbers of people.”
Martin Ivory, prosecuting, said all four defendants were part of an “Albanian organised crime gang” which sourced the cocaine in London and transferred it to Norfolk where it was “diluted” using cutting agents.
The court heard that, following a police investigation, between October last year and May this year, a total amount of 2,888 grammes of cocaine was recovered together with cutting agents and three mechanical presses.
Mr Ivory said the total individual street value of the cocaine recovered was somewhere in the region of £750,000.
Roland Lami, 30, of Bateman Close, Bowthorpe, Norwich, and Indrit Korra, 26, of Mundesley Road, North Walsham, were both jailed for five years and four months at Norwich Crown Court yesterday after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Elis Xhaferi, 24, of The Towers, Carrow Hill, Norwich, was jailed for two years and six months after previously admitting possessing cocaine with intent to supply, while Preparim Hajdari, of St Williams Way, Thorpe St Andrew, who admitted being concerned in the supply of cocaine, was also jailed for two years and six months.
Mr Ivory said the case “involves and revolves around” three premises which were identified as “being key” in the investigation at Pennyroyal, off Fifers Lane, an address at Carrow Hill and a commercial premises at Arms Park Road, Norwich.
Sentencing the four defendants yesterday Judge Holt said Lami and Korra played “significant” roles while Xhaferi and Hajdari had lesser involvement in a case he described as involving “serious organised crime”.
He said: “You were involved in taking drugs from the London area and bringing them up to this part of the world. In addition to drugs and cutting agents found were mechanical presses, scales and other paraphernalia in three premises.”
The court heard police had conducted a complex investigation over a number of months, involving numerous covert observations, which resulted in the defendants being brought before the courts.
Mr Ivory said Korra and Lami were stopped by police on April 18 driving a red VW Golf which was later found to have 494 grammes of cocaine concealed behind the front passenger air bag.
Both defendants’ finger prints were found on a plastic bag and following their arrest the Penny Royal address was searched and items, including cutting agents and a mechanical press recovered.
Ian James, mitigating for Lami, said he was originally from Albania but had been in the country for 12 years with no previous convictions and was in work with a supportive girlfiend who he hoped to marry when released.
He said: “This is not someone who has come here to commit crime. He has quite lawful and legitimate aspirations and has become involved over a relatively short period of time by way of associations he has built up.” He added he was “one of the spokes of this particular wheel” but “not the “hub”.
Michael Clare, for Korra, said his client pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and deserved full credit for plea and added he had not sought to offer any “fictional” account or “bleating mitigation”.
Andrew Shaw, mitigating for Xhaferi, said his client had come to this country in 2003 after his father was murdered by criminals in Albania. He came to the UK and his mother, who he has not seen since, fled to Brazil.
Mr Shaw said his client should receive credit for plea, played a lesser role and that his involvement was down to pressure, intimidation or coercion.
John Farmer, for Hajdari, said he was a “gofer” and in the “lowest possible category” in terms of the operation. He said: “There’s no evidence he himself had hands on any cocaine, that he himself had been supplying or he himself being involved in the mixing.”
A fifth defendant, Lucy Barnard, 20, of Bishy Barnebee Way, Bowthorpe, who admitted money laundering, was sentenced to a 12-month community order with the requirement she complete 200 hours unpaid work.
Mr Ivory said Barnard, who was in a relationship with Korra, had her bank account examined and had a total of £9,030 go into her bank account in relation to the case.
Mr Farmer, for Barnard, said she worked in the nursing profession and was not wasting her life but unfortunately “got drawn into something and has paid a very considerable price”. He added she had some “intense emotional difficulties at the time”.
Speaking after the case, T/Detective Superintendent Mark Lay of the Eastern Regional Special Operations Unit, which deals with cross-border criminals and is served by officers from Norfolk, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Hertfordshire forces, said: “The message to those who would seek to deal in drugs is simple. If you bring drugs into the region, if you deal in drugs, we will deploy every policing tactic against you. We will identify you, we will arrest you and you will go to prison. We will continue to actively pursue anyone who thinks that they can bring drugs into the county.”
He added: “We have dismantled a significant Albanian Organised crime group with strong links into a number of criminals in Norfolk peddling in Class A drugs. The ERSOU team has worked tirelessly over several months to gather all the evidence to secure convictions against this gang and protect the Norfolk community.”