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Gang jailed for drugs smuggling through the UK and Ireland

Four men who smuggled drugs from the Netherlands to the UK and Ireland have been sentenced to a total of more than 53 years in prison after a National Crime Agency investigation

Anthony Terry, 49, from Wolverhampton, was head of the organised crime group, orchestrating an importation of £1.6 million of cocaine from the Netherlands to England, and then across by ferry to Northern Ireland.

NCA officers seized the drugs, which had been hidden in fuel tanks transported within a van, when it arrived at Belfast port in February 2021. At the same time Terry was under surveillance in Wolverhampton, and he was arrested the same day.

Terry was working with Michael Collis, 63, also from Wolverhampton, who acted as his driver picking up the drugs in the Netherlands.

Two other drivers, Joshpal Singh Kothiria, 34, from Wolverhampton, and Mohammed Omar Khan, 39, from Birmingham, were used to supply the drugs to customers in the UK or export them to the Republic of Ireland.

The group used encrypted messaging service Encrochat to communicate and the NCA was able to identify other occasions in 2020 where Terry had smuggled drugs and cash for other organised crime groups.

Terry instructed Collis to travel to the Netherlands on 6 April 2020 and he collected 17.5 kilos of cocaine. From there, the drugs were divided up and, while Khan made deliveries to Luton and Slough, Collis travelled to the Republic of Ireland to hand over the remaining amount in County Wicklow.

At the same time, Terry sent Kothiria to East London to collect 10 kilos of cannabis and a vacuum packing machine. Kothiria brought these back to the West Midlands 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 kilos 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 between 26 May and 3 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.

The drugs were transported to Northern Ireland by ferry before being driven across the country to be dropped off in Ireland. NCA officers worked closely with the Police Service of Northern Ireland and An Garda Síochána in the Republic to track Kothiria’s movements.

Later in June 2020, the NCA’s Operation Venetic saw the takedown of the Encrochat platform.

Terry and Collis continued their criminality, however, and NCA investigators established that Collis had 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.

Terry and Collis both pleaded guilty to drug trafficking offences in April. Kothiria and Khan were convicted in May following a trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

They were sentenced at the same court today. Terry was already serving an 18 year sentence in relation to the cocaine seized in Belfast in February 2021.

NCA Branch Commander Mick Pope said: “These criminals were determined to smuggle drugs into the UK and onwards to the Republic of Ireland. They did not care about the geography of their crimes when in pursuit of pure profit.

“They used the road and ferry networks to take their drugs across the Irish Sea, hoping to avoid detection by taking advantage of the common travel area and border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

“This case demonstrates perfectly how the NCA works with partners to tackle cross-border threats between the UK and Ireland, and we will continue do all we can to disrupt and dismantle organised crime groups impacting on local communities.”

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