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Twenty-two members of a gang, who ploughed more than £20 million-worth of high purity illegal drugs around the country over the course of 12 months, have been jailed for more than 200 years.
Sold on the street, the drugs were worth up to £60 million.
Major enforcement across eight counties in two days in February 2019 brought the illicit operation – which was being coordinated out of Leicestershire, with main stash sites and supply routes in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and the West Midlands — to an abrupt end.
At Leicester Crown Court this week (Monday 6 to Friday 10 September 2021), 11 people were sentenced for their involvement. They follow 11 others, who were sentenced previously, but can only be reported on now following the lifting of restrictions.
In 2017, an investigation by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) was joining the dots on a massive drugs plot to move various controlled substances around the region and beyond.
In October 2017, 111kg of amphetamine seized during a raid by Nottinghamshire Police at a house in Radford revealed links to this operation. Some of the harmful substance was found in a household freezer among ice cream.
Later that month, 20kg of cannabis was also seized from boxes in a car in Derby, leading to 189kg of rare and potent anabolic steroid hexadrone in heat-sealed bags stuffed in six suitcases at a storage unit in the city.
Two months later, 35kg of cocaine – some of which had been branded with ‘K Crown’ stamps – was seized from a van north of Stoke-on-Trent. More cocaine was recovered from a house in Willenhall in Wolverhampton. At the same site 100kg of powerful sedative ketamine, kept in boxes marked as shoes, was recovered.
The investigation identified that the organised crime group handled more than a tonne of Class A and B drugs (500kg of cocaine, and 500kg of amphetamines, cannabis, hexadrone and ketamine) throughout 2017.
The importation and onward distribution of the drugs was arranged by Ardeep Takhar, from his semi-detached home in a Leicester suburb. Jasbir Sangha and Daljit Pamma managed its transportation to Lawinder Bahia’s home in Willenhall, which had been specially adapted to create an annex off the entrance to the main house for the drugs storage.
They also arranged delivery to a key ‘client’, namely Sukjinder Sandhu in Derbyshire, who worked with and Adam Dooley, also in Derbyshire, David Moth in Nottinghamshire and Marc Unsted, who was based in the West Midlands, to prepare and distribute large quantities of illicit substances across the country
Sandhu counted on runners Claire Smallman, Zahid Quayum and Jamie Brear. Moth was assisted by Robert Buttar, Laurence Smith and self-proclaimed ‘chemist’ Mark Thone.
The gang also had links into a storage site in Slough and the EMSOU team found further reach into other towns and cities across the country, including Leeds, London, Middlesbrough and March in Cambridgeshire, as well as up to Edinburgh.
Enquiries made by EMSOU on this investigation also led to the uncovering of a separate six-year conspiracy between Unsted and Dooley to supply steroids, between 2013 and 2019.
Detective Inspector Harry Rai, who was the Senior Investigating Officer, said: “This gang had a profitable enterprise going, bringing a tonne of dangerous drugs into the UK. They showed no care for the incredible damage this sort of criminality causes, rather used it to line their own pockets – on the face of it, benefitting by tens of millions of pounds – and bolster their reputation.
“At the top of the tree was Ardeep Takhar, who kept his hands relatively clean by controlling the whole illicit operation from afar in Leicester. He arranged for Lawinder Bahia, Jasbir Sangha and Daljit Pamma to do most of the leg work, receiving the secret shipments as they were brought into the country and then transporting it between counties, over hundreds of miles.
“Sukjinder Sandhu and David Moth commanded their own gangs and, in partnership with Adam Dooley and Marc Unsted, went on to flood countless communities with millions of pounds-worth of deadly drugs.
“This investigation has been a massive undertaking for EMSOU, supported by the National Crime Agency and Border Force, not just in terms of the scale of resources involved, but also in that we were able to take out the whole illicit operation – from the ones at the top pulling the strings to bring the drugs into the country, to those on the streets supplying the final product, and everything in between.
“I’d like to sincerely thank all those at EMSOU who have contributed a sustained effort into this lengthy investigation, as well as those in the forces who supported us in our enquiries and during the arrest phase.
"Also, barristers Miranda Moore QC and Jonathan Cox both did excellent work in helping to bring these convictions and keep the trial on track, despite delays due to the pandemic.
“This investigation has been far-reaching not only with the seizure of a massive amount of controlled drugs destined for all corners of the country, but also in that it has attracted significant sentences for those responsible. All this goes a long way to preventing further damage to our communities.
“The war against drugs may be long-fought, but this is another battle won by law enforcement in our quest to keep harmful substances, and the violence they perpetuate, off our streets."
Efforts to identify and seize money or other assets gained from the crimes are underway under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Below is the full list of those sentenced this week under this operation:
The following people were sentenced over the summer:
The following people were sentenced at the end of 2019 into 2020, following a trial: