Drug smuggling ring jailed
November 19, 2014, 7:33 pm
Seven members of a drug smuggling ring responsible for the importation into the UK of tens of millions pounds worth of heroin and cocaine have today been jailed for 77 years.
Eight of their co-conspirators were previously jailed for a total of 80 years for their part in the conspiracy, which saw in excess of £40m worth of Class A drugs smuggled in from mainland Europe before being sold on throughout London and the south east and south coast of England.
Today, Wednesday 19 November, at Kingston Crown Court:
[I] Sami Qerkini (15.2.65 – 49 years) of Brook Avenue, Edgware HA8: sentenced to 22 years for conspiracy to supply heroin
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[J] Bardhi Lleshi (20.2.78 – 36 years) of Thurlow Park Road, Southwark SE21: sentenced to 16 and a half years for conspiracy to supply heroin
[K] Arben Oruci (17.3.70 – 44 years) of Challice Way, Lambeth SW2: sentenced to three years for conspiracy to supply heroin
[L] Armando Oruci (1.11.74 – 40 years) of Birkbeck Road, Tottenham N17: sentenced to 12 years for conspiracy to supply heroin
[N] Jgergji Lleshi (2.5.87 – 27 years) of Bride Street, Islington N7: sentenced to two years and eight months for conspiracy to supply heroin
[O] Almir Gocaj (22.1.78 – 36 years) of Belvedere Road, Bromley SE19: sentenced to 12 years for conspiracy to supply heroin
[P] Altin Gocaj (22.1.78 – 36 years) of Highland Road, Lambeth SE19: sentenced to nine years for conspiracy to supply heroin
All eight had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
The successful prosecutions are the culmination of a protracted and complex investigation by Detectives from the Met’s Central Task Force, codenamed Operation Ninjask, which focused on the activities of a sophisticated criminal network involved in the supply of Class A drugs.
Sami Qerkini was a significant and leading member of an Albanian Organised Criminal Group for over 20 years and had developed a sophisticated and extensive network of associates to source, import and supply drugs into the UK and convey the proceeds of his business abroad.
Operating from a number of safe houses and using a fleet of vehicles, Qerkini and his associates attempted to remain beneath the radar of the investigators by leading what appeared a regular daily life running cafes. However, they were all involved in the preparation and mixing process of the drugs.
Safehouse-keepers, couriers and mixers – and identical twins – Almir and Altin Gocaj were arrested together at safe houses / drugs factories at two addresses in the Crystal Palace area, Osprey Court and Belvedere Road on 19 June 2013. They were found in possession 2 kgs of heroin and the address contained a drug press and mixing agents. A large amount of cash was also recovered – £133,205 in sterling and £77,880 Euros.
Qerkini, Head of the Network; his right hand man Bardhi Lleshi; safehouse-keeper, courier & mixer Altin Gocaj; courier & mixer Gjergji Lleshi (Cousin/nephew of Bardhi Lleshi); safehouse-keeper, courier & mixers – and brothers – Armando Oruci & Arben Oruci were all arrested in September 2013.
On 12 September 2013 Armando Oruci was seen to come out of an address in Tenby Road, Walthamstow E17 with a bag and hand it to Arben Oruci who drove off. When Arben Oruci was stopped by police two boxes of ‘Cookies’ and a ‘Smooth Espresso’ box, each containing 1kg heroin, were found in the car.
Police raided the address in Tenby Road, finding Armando Oruci in the hallway. Qerkini as in the small kitchen of the premises and was in the process of mixing quantities of heroin powder. Both were wearing latex gloves and face masks. In total approximately 8kg of Heroin was seized from the address and around £2,000 in cash.
A warrant was then executed in Mildmay Grove South, Islington N1, a further safe house, and another 2kgs of heroin was recovered.
Bardhi Lleshi was arrested near his home address of Thurlow Park Road, Southwark SE21 and a search of it revealed 20,500 Euros. Lleshi was still on license, having been released early from a six and a half year prison sentence imposed in February 2008 for Conspiracy to Supply Class A drugs.
Officers then attended another safe house in Bride Street, Islington N7. There they found Gjergji Lleshi, the younger brother of Bardhi LLeshi, and recovered around £40,000 that was concealed within the flat.
All were arrested and charged with conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
Qerkini had fled the UK in 2010 following the arrest of over 20 of his associates over the preceding two years for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and money laundering. This was in relation to the discovery of two Drugs Factories and the associated interception of the Destiny Express vessel containing a tonne of high grade cocaine, worth an estimated street value of £375 million.
Due to the evidence gathered, Qerkini was charged and pleaded guilty to two separate conspiracies, one stretching from 2008-2010 and the other from 2012-2013. The defence accepted that the Network headed by Qerkini had supplied between 400kgs – 500kgs of Class A drugs between September 2012 and September 2013.
Qerkini was sentenced to 22 years for the conspiracy that ran between 2012 and 2013 and 12 years for the conspiracy that ran between 2008 and 2010, with the sentences to run concurrently.
Previously sentenced were:
[A] Admir Doda (18.7.76 – 38 years) of Reynolds Drive, Edgware HA8: sentenced to 15 years at Southwark Crown Court on 17 September 2013 for conspiracy to supply cocaine
[B] Bledar Hysenlika (26.3.84 – 30 years) of Sunningfields Road, Hendon NW4: sentenced to 10 years nine months at Southwark Crown Court on 17 September 2013 for conspiracy to supply cocaine
[C] Florian Koxha (29.7.84 – 30 years) of Ham Close, TW10 7PA: sentenced to ten years three months at Southwark Crown Court on 17 September 2013 for conspiracy to supply cocaine
[D] Henri Stafhasani (21.9.82 – 32 years) of Heritage Avenue, Colindale NW9: sentenced to ten years four months at Southwark Crown Court on 17 September 2013 for conspiracy to supply cocaine
[E] Hyseni Meta (5.8.77 – 37 years) of Woodstock Avenue, Golders Green NW11: sentenced to six years four months at Southwark Crown Court on 17 September 2013 for conspiracy to supply cocaine
[F] Eliasaf Marqeshi (20.8.81 – 33 years) of Sunningfields Road, Hendon NW4: sentenced to five years three months at Southwark Crown Court on 17 September 2013 for conspiracy to supply cocaine
[G] Aurrell Marqeshi (22.2.80 – 34 years), of Stanley Road TW3: sentenced to 11 years at Southwark Crown Court on 7th February 2014.
[H] Ardian Doda (06.12.80 – 33 years) of Harrow Road, Wembley: sentenced to 10.5 years at Southwark Crown Court on 23rd May 2014 after previously fleeing to Holland.
Doda was an associate of Qerkini whose group operated across the continent. Doda, who took the directorial role in the UK, was surrounded and supported by his key personnel in the importation and supply in the South Coast of the UK – specifically Portsmouth, Southampton and Bournemouth – of hundreds of kilos of cocaine with an estimated street value of more than £40m.
The cocaine would be imported into the UK, smuggled in lorries or vehicle by members of the network. The cocaine was then hidden in socks and smothered in Vicks at safe houses for onward distribution within the UK at purities of 73-84%.
The cash was then exchanged for Euros at Money Service Bureaus across London and packaged in a similar way to the drugs (smothered in vapour rub and then placed in socks), then hidden in the dashboards of vehicles before leaving the country.
On 21 January 2012 £155,000 in Euros were seized by detectives from Stafhasani as he attempted to leave the country via the Channel Tunnel.
Doda; his cousins Stafhasani and Aurrel Marqeshi; deputies Hysenlika and Koxha; and the two safe house-keepers, cousins Meta and Eliasaf Marqeshi were all arrested in August and October 2012.
Some of those involved are Foreign Offenders and appropriate co-operation has been sought from the UK Border Force to ensure that appropriate opportunities are taken for deportation after the offenders have served their prison sentences.
Detective Inspector Nick Blackburn of the Met’s Central Task Force, said “This outstanding result reflects the professionalism and dedication of a Specialist Team of Detectives who have achieved significant sentences for those concerned. The Organised Crime Group has been fully dismantled from importation level to street-level distributors. This is indicative of the Met’s Total War on Organised Crime and should send out a strong message to those currently engaged in such activity.”
A 38-year-old man from Stockwell, Omar Welsh (27.12.75) of Stockwell Park Road, Stockwell SW9, who was a customer of the Organised Crime Group, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment at Croydon Crown Court on 22 October 2013 after pleading guilty to possession with intent to supply heroin after taking receipt of 2kgs heroin from the group.