Over 12.5 tonnes of cannabis resin – enough to produce 36 million spliffs – has been incinerated after an investigation by the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
The drugs seizure, from the tug boat ‘Abbira’ which had docked at Southampton, represents one of the largest seizures of cannabis resin in the UK. It was destroyed in a specialist incinerator and needed 6 separate burnings to cope with the volume.
10 men were convicted at Winchester Crown Court today for their part in the criminal plot.
In a coordinated operation led by SOCA and involving Leicestershire Police, HMRC andUKBA, 12 men were arrested on the 09th April 2008, at the same time as a search of the Abbira began. Over a number of days, 419 bales of cannabis weighing 12.57 tonnes in total were removed from the fresh water, ballast and foam tanks of the tug.
The prosecution showed that an Israeli organised crime group employed an Eastern European crew to transport the drugs to the UK for delivery to a Leicester based criminal gang. Significant national and international cooperation was needed to target the various groups, and resulted in a lengthy trial with multiple translations and complex argument to prove the importation offence.
Andy Sellers, Deputy Director of SOCA, said:
“This operation was a massive success for international and national law enforcement cooperation. The quantity of drugs seized would have resulted in upwards of three and a half million street deals and would have funded a wide range of other criminal activity. “Taking out both ends of the criminal operation means that not only have we disrupted a supply route into the UK, but also a distribution network that would most likely have stretched right across the UK.”
Joanne Jakymec, Senior Lawyer, Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office said:
“This conviction represents 14 months of dedicated team work between several departments overcoming multiple language barriers. The defendants included nationals from the UK, Israel, Serbia and Ukraine, and as a result international assistance was sought from 10 different countries. The RCPO prosecution team presented over 5000 pages of evidence in support of their case, including material from Israel, USA and Holland.’
Commander Chris Pratt of HM Revenue & Customs /UK Border Agency said:
“The cutter crew and rummage teams used breathing apparatus equipment to remove the drugs from the Abbira’s water and ballast tanks. It took our officers nearly five days to recover and offload the 419 bales from these confined chambers. This was a huge amount of cannabis resin to discover on one vessel and an excellent result for all the organisations involved.”
Detective Chief Inspector David Sandall, who led the Leicestershire side of the investigation, said:
“This case demonstrates how different agencies can successfully work together to disable the international drugs trade. “Drugs are an international concern and to fight multi-national criminality you have to think, act and work outside the county boundaries. There’s no doubt in my mind that this drugs haul was bound for the streets of Britain, some of which would inevitably have ended up in Leicester. By working with SOCA, the UKBA, HMRC and authorities in Israel we have targeted the problem at the source.
“There’s £36m of cannabis that will never reach the street dealers and there are 10 men in prison for their part in this crime. Everyone who worked on this case can feel proud of their achievements today and the part they played in a much bigger picture, targeting international drugs criminality, while at the same time disrupting local drugs supply on the UK’s streets.”
The 10 men will be sentenced on Thursday 04 June 2009 at Winchester Crown Court.
Details of the verdicts:
Moshe KEDAR d.o.b 12/07/1927 (Israel) Guilty 29/052009
Yehezkel SREBRO d.o.b 12/11/1951 (Israel) Pleaded 29/09/08
Mordechai HERSH d.o.b 25/11/1941 (Israel) Guilty 29/05/2009
Mohinder Singh RAI d.o.b 22/02/1964 (UK National) Pleaded 29/09/08
Baljinder Singh RAI d.o.b 18/10/1967 (UK National) Pleaded 29/09/08
Anjum NAZIR d.o.b 01/02/1970 (UK National) Pleaded 17/02/09
Dragan STANKOVIC d.o.b 17/12/1954 (Serbian) Guilty 29/05/2009
Goram OTOVIC d.o.b 28/04/1955 (Serbian) Guilty 29/05/2009
Dusan MILEUSNIC d.o.b 07/10/1959 (Serbian) Guilty 02/06/2009
Negovan JOVANOVIC d.o.b 07/09/1950 (Serbian) Guilty 02/06/2009
Yaroslav KSENOVETS d.o.b 04/09/1973 (Ukraine) Acquitted 02/06/09
Sergiy KHODOS d.o.b 08/02/1983 (Ukraine) Acquitted 02/06/09
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