London: A 33-year-old Indian-origin man is among members of a drugs smuggling gang busted and convicted for their role in conspiring to supply cocaine and cannabis from the Netherlands to the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Joshpal Singh Kothiria was caught as part of a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation in Britain, which uncovered his role as a driver from Wolverhampton in central England who supplied the smuggled drugs to Ireland.
He along with others was convicted at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Friday and will be sentenced at a later date.
“This was a sophisticated operation to smuggle drugs into the UK and Ireland to make significant profits,” said Mick Pope, NCA Branch Commander.
“These convictions have taken a harmful crime group out of action, and demonstrate the NCA’s commitment to protecting the public from serious and organised crime,” he said.
Anthony Terry, 49, also from Wolverhampton, organised the import of drugs and was under surveillance when GBP 1.6 million worth of cocaine was seized at Belfast port in Northern Ireland in February 2021.
The drugs were transported from the Netherlands to England and then across on the ferry to Northern Ireland in fuel tanks, which were transported within a van, the NCA investigation revealed.
When Terry learned about the seizure, officers watched him in the Wolverhampton area moving identical fuel tanks to those found in the van so they would not be linked to him.
He was arrested soon after and it emerged that his organised crime group associates were using the encrypted messaging service Encrochat, which enabled the NCA to identify other occasions in 2020 when he had smuggled drugs and cash for other organised crime groups.
They uncovered that Terry had enlisted Michael Collis, 62, from Wolverhampton, to travel to the Netherlands where he would meet contacts to pick up the cocaine, concealing it in his van.
Two more drivers were recruited by him, including Mohammed Omar Khan, 38, from Birmingham, who supplied drugs to customers in the UK, and Kothiria, who supplied them in the Republic of Ireland.
“Terry was the kingpin of this group, offering a service to criminals who needed to obtain drugs or move money,” noted NCA’s Mick Pope.
According to the investigating agency, Terry instructed Collis to travel to the Netherlands on April 6, 2020, and he collected 17.5 kg of cocaine.
From there, the drugs were divided up and, while Khan delivered six kilos to Luton and four to Slough, Collis travelled to the Republic of Ireland to hand over the remaining five-and-a-half kilos in County Wicklow.
At the same time, Terry is said to have sent Kothiria to east London to collect 10 kg cannabis and a vacuum packing machine.
Kothiria brought these back to the West Midlands region of England, where the cannabis was packed before he took it to County Leitrim in the Republic of Ireland.
A couple of weeks later, Collis picked up 18 kg of cocaine in the Netherlands, going on to deliver 10 kilos to dealers in the UK before taking the rest to Ireland.
The final drug run captured on Encrochat occurred in May-June 2020, where Terry discussed a cannabis delivery.
Kothiria was sent to pick up the load from Leicestershire and take it to the Republic of Ireland.
In June 2020, the NCA’s Operation Venetic saw the takedown of the Encrochat service and the abandonment of the platform.
Terry and Collis continued their operation, however, and NCA investigators established that Collis travelled to the Hook of Holland again in July and September 2020 before returning to England and travelling onward to Belfast.
He then distributed the drugs in Limerick in the Republic of Ireland.
Collis and Kothiria were arrested in March 2021, while Khan was arrested in December 2020.
Following a trial in November 2022, Terry was jailed for 18 years in relation to the Belfast cocaine seizure.
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He was charged with the additional drug trafficking offences linked to the messages found on his Encrochat device in April 2022 and pleaded guilty in April this year.
Collis also pleaded guilty to drug trafficking offences in April and all the gang members will be sentenced at a later date.
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