Criminals go bananas! Drugs gang flee in terror when detectives catch them on ... trends now
This is the moment two members of a drugs gang which attempted to smuggle £11m of cocaine into the UK hidden in a shipment of bananas have been jailed for 18 years each.
Robert Ball, 59, and Mirgent Shahu, 32, were part of a conspiracy which shipped the Class A drug in to the London Gateway Port from Equador.
A court heard the gang hid 139 kilograms of the drug in the roof of a shipping container containing the fruit, with logistics industry worker Ball locating a yard in Coventry where the consignment could then be moved to.
But the court heard the drugs were intercepted by police when the consignment reached the port near Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, in April 2022. The container was then resealed.
National Crime Agency investigators later arrested four men as they unloaded a shipping container they believed still contained the drugs.
In surveillance footage, Ibra and Kaviani can be seen using a crowbar to force open the roof of the shipping container
A court heard the gang hid 139 kilograms of the drug in the roof of a shipping container containing the fruit
But the court heard the drugs were intercepted by police when the consignment reached the port near Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, in April 2022. The container (pictured) was then resealed
To get to the drugs hoard the gang forced open the roof of the shipping container, revealing packages beneath(pictured)
The drugs had an estimated wholesale value of £3m and a street value of £11m, the court heard
The criminal pair used a forklift truck to lift them on top of the shipping containers as they balanced on a palate
Investigators then found footage on Ibra’s phone showing what appears to be a block of cocaine stamped with the Union Jack being broken open
Ball, from Altrincham, Cheshire, and Albanian national Shahu, from Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, were convicted by a jury at Warwick Crown Court in May.
Sentencing them at the court yesterday, Recorder Martin Butterworth said each played a ‘very significant role’ in the conspiracy, with married father-of-one Shahu liaising between an Albanian organised crime group and the UK end of the operation.
The judge said Shahu was also ‘entrusted to oversee the activities’ of two other defendants who were also arrested. Arman Kaviani, 37, an Iranian national living in Golders Green, North London, and fellow Albanian Florjan Ibra, 30, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to their roles in the drugs conspiracy and were previously jailed for 12 years and nine months and 13 years and six months respectively.
The drugs had an estimated wholesale value of £3m and a street value of £11m, the court heard.
The trial heard that a few days after the ship docked at London Gateway, Ball contacted the shipping line to ask them to release four containers, including the one he thought contained the drugs.
He then arranged for a transport company to collect and move the containers to a storage company in Coventry, where he was joined by Ibra, Shahu and Kaviani a few days later.
In surveillance footage, Ibra and Kaviani can be seen climbing on to the roof