East Midlands gang who used encrypted criminal phone network to import £165m of cocaine into UK jailed for 167 years
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A gang who imported more than £165m of cocaine into the country have been jailed for a total of 167 years.
An investigation by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) revealed the 21 strong group was led by Paldip Mahngar who organised in the region of 100kg of high-purity cocaine from his unassuming terraced house in Willow Close, Darley Abbey.
The 45-year-old used an encrypted EncroChat phone to order multiple kilos of the drug from contacts in Dubai – which was then distributed across the country by Jaswant Kajla.
From his home in Bluebird Drive, Coventry, Kajla organised the logistics of moving the drugs, along with the collecting of money from the gang’s customers.
The 41-year-old ensured that those delivering the cocaine had well-rehearsed cover stories as couriers who could deny their knowledge of the drugs they were delivering.
The money collected was dealt with by Manraj Johal – the gang’s accountant. The 32-year-old kept detailed Excel spreadsheets that showed the incomings, outgoings, and expenses of the gang.
Using another encrypted phone Johal, of Turnpike Drive, Luton, would then contact the upstream suppliers of the drugs to update them about how much money was being made.
The gang had two “offices” in Luton and Derby where millions of pounds flowed through from their cocaine sales – with an estimated £18.6m being made by the gang between 16 March and 30 April 2020, a daily total of £400k which officers used to estimate the gang’s total earnings over the 408 day conspiracy to be a staggering £165,208,208.
The Derby office was run by the last top-level member of the gang Manvir Singh (also known as Manveer Khakh). The 33-year-old was responsible for counting, bundling, vacuum packing and then assigning an individual token number to each of the bundles of cash.
Singh, of Harpur Avenue, Derby, would then meet with couriers who would move the cash to other gang members around the country.
The four leading members of the gang - Mahngar, Singh, Johal and Bahia - travelled to Dubai to meet their contacts bragging that the person they were visiting was on a “mil a week” and wearing a £110k watch while spending £37k in a club on a Thursday night.
The investigation into the gang’s exploits was well underway when detectives were supplied with further evidence of their criminality after the secure EncroChat phone system the gang were using was taken down. The system, which was used by criminals across the world, was infiltrated by law enforcement in Europe who then passed the information to UK authorities.
The information gleaned from the messages allowed officers to target the gang and intercept 7kg of cocaine being transported in Derby in April 2020. The couriering of the drugs had been organised by Kajla, who sent gang member Basharat Iqbal to pick up the drugs. When Iqbal’s home was searched, he was found to have £20,000 in £1,000 bundles in a locked tin – and 3kg of cocaine in a wardrobe.
And the extent of the cash being turned over was shown even more starkly when, during further warrants in June 2020, officers found money counter Nimrat Bahia mid-way through bundling £530k at an apartment in London.
The other members of the gang helped move the drugs and money around the country:
The Couriers – Ranjit Sandhu, Basharat Iqbal, Banaras Iqbal, and Tyrone Gibbons.
The Cash Counters – John Castledine and Adil Saddique.
With the drugs being purchased by wholesale customers, with the following people buying the cocaine by the kilo:
The Customers – Michael Karim, Kelly Williamson, Nathaniel Collymore, Narinderpal Sahota, Mohammad Shafiq and Joseph Davidson.
Further evidence discovered by officers showed that four of the men were also involved in the supply of heroin between January and February 2020. Shimei Connell and Joseph Davidson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to supply heroin – while Marvin Johnson and Jermaine Callender were found guilty at trial.
Following four trials last year, on Friday 7 January 2022 at Derby Crown Court, members of the gang were sentenced to the following sentences for the following offences:
Count 1 – Conspiracy to supply cocaine
Count 2 – Conspiracy to conceal, disguise, convert or transfer criminal property
Count 3 – Conspiracy to supply heroin
Count 4 – Conspiracy to conceal, disguise, convert or transfer criminal property
Count 5 – Possession of cocaine with intent to supply
Count 6 – Possession of cannabis with intent to supply
Count 7 – Possession of false identity documents
Count 8 – Possession with intent to supply heroin
Count 9 – Possession of a stun gun
Count 10 – Possession of a smoke grenade
Paldip Mahngar, 45, of Willow Close, Derby – Count 1 and 2 - 18 years and three months.
Jaswant Kajla, 41, of Bluebird Drive, Coventry – Count 1 and 2 - 15 years and three months.
Manraj Johal, 32, of Turnpike Drive, Luton – Count 1 and 2 - 15 years and eight months.
Manvir Singh AKA Manveer Khakh, 33, of HMP Nottingham – Count 1 and 2 – 13 years.
Ranjit Sandhu, 49, of Carrington Street, Derby – Count 1 and 2 – Six years and 10 months.
Basharat Iqbal, 46, of Cromwell Road, Derby – Count 1 and 2 – Seven years and nine months.
John Castledine, 63, of Harrington Street, Derby – Count 2 – Seven years and three months.
Michael Karim, 36, of HMP Nottingham – Count 1, 2, 7, 10 – 10 years.
Kelly Williamson, 57, of HMP Nottingham – Count 1 – five years and three months.
Joseph Davidson, 41, of HMP Nottingham – Count 1, 3, and 5 – 10 years and two months.
Nathaniel Collymore, 39, of HMP Nottingham – Count 1 and 4 - Seven years and five months.
Mohammad Shafiq, 38, of HMP Nottingham – Count 1, 2 and 9 – 12 years.
Nimrat Bahia, 26, of HMP Nottingham – Count 2 – Seven years and one month.
Banaras Iqbal, 42, of HMP Nottingham – Count 2 – Four years and nine months.
Jermaine Callender, 44, of HMP Nottingham – Count 3 – Three years.
Shimei Connell, 38, of Pearson Avenue, Coventry – Count 3 and 6 – Seven years and nine months.
Marvin Johnson, 41, of HMP Nottingham – Count 3 – 11 years and six months.
Adil Saddique, 35, of Portland Street, Derby. - Count 2 – Four years and seven months.
The following members of the gang will be sentenced at a later date for the following counts:
Tyrone Gibbons, 33, of Sandringham Drive, Derby – Count 1 and 2
Narinderpal Sahota, 39, of Village Street, Derby – Count 1, 2 and 8
Talvinder Johal, 37, of Turnpike Drive, Luton. – Count 2
DCI Tim Walters, who led the investigation, said: "This was a massive undertaking by a very skilled and determined investigation team to dismantle a gang which was responsible for the industrial scale wholesale supply of cocaine across the country, along with the movement of millions of pounds in criminal cash each week.
"While the gang's use of a 'token' system to monitor their cash flow and the encrypted Encrochat handsets to coordinate their business showed a level of sophistication, they merely acted as a breadcrumb trail for us to see the scale of the 'business', and identify each member of the organised crime group, as well as every sale they had made.
"The hefty sentences given today are not only a testament to an impressive regional investigation, but also to the power of collaborative law enforcement on a national and international scale.
"And we've not finished yet. Through the Proceeds of Crime Act we will now seek to identify and seize any assets amounted from the running of this illicit enterprise, to ensure those responsible are not only stripped of their freedom, but also of any profits made through their criminal activities."