A 34-year-old Indian-origin man, part of a four-member drugs smuggling gang, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Friday.
This gang was busted and convicted for their role in conspiring to supply cocaine and cannabis from the Netherlands to the UK and Republic of Ireland,
Joshpal Singh Kothiria was caught as part of a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation in Britain, which uncovered his role as a driver from Wolverhampton in central England who supplied the smuggled drugs to Ireland.
He was convicted of conspiracy to commit a crime abroad at Wolverhampton Crown Court earlier this year and all four gangsters have now been sentenced to a total of over 53 years in prison by the same court in central England.
“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,” said Mick Pope, NCA Branch Commander.
“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 to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle organised crime groups impacting on local communities,” he said.
Anthony Terry, 49, also from Wolverhampton, organised the importation of drugs and was under surveillance when GBP 1.6 million worth of cocaine was seized at Belfast port in Northern Ireland in February 2021.
The drugs were transported from the Netherlands to England and then across on the ferry to Northern Ireland in fuel tanks being transported within a van, the NCA found.
When Terry learned about the seizure, officers watched him in the Wolverhampton area moving identical fuel tanks to those found in the van so they would not be linked to him. He was arrested soon after and it emerged that his organised crime group associates were using the encrypted messaging service Encrochat, which enabled the NCA to identify other occasions in 2020 when he had smuggled drugs and cash for other organised crime groups.
They uncovered that Terry had enlisted Michael Collis, 63, from Wolverhampton, to travel to the Netherlands where he would meet contacts to pick up the cocaine, concealing it in his van. Two more drivers were recruited by him, including Mohammed Omar Khan, 39, from Birmingham, who supplied drugs to customers in the UK, and Kothiria, who supplied them in the Republic of Ireland.
Following a trial in November 2022, Terry was jailed for 18 years in connection with the Belfast cocaine seizure. He was charged with additional drug trafficking offences linked to the messages found on his Encrochat device in April 2022 and pleaded guilty in April this year.
Collis also pleaded guilty to drug trafficking offences in April. All the gang members have now been sentenced, with Terry sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment, Collis to 12 years and six months and Khan to 13 years.