Cops have smashed a huge international drugs ring – after gang members were found with a haul of cocaine worth around £1 million.
Four prolific dealers, all from Latvia, have been jailed for a combined 50 years after trading drugs across the UK, eastern Europe and America.
Their cocaine stash, and another £200k-worth of cannabis and ecstasy, was discovered as part of a West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) led investigation.
Even a global pandemic ‘was no deterrent’ in their plans to import and export drugs across continents, said police.
Following a large-scale operation, a BMW was stopped by Humberside Police in Grimsby last October and the drugs haul was found hidden inside two holdalls.
Two members of the gang – Ilja Palionnijs and Egons Semjonovs – were already under police surveillance and CCTV showed them putting the drug-filled bags into the car outside a hotel where they were staying in the town.
The BMW driver, Igor Gridin, and passenger Aleksej Sagamogas were then stopped shortly afterwards, and all four men were arrested and subsequently charged with possession with intent to supply drugs.
Cops found a rucksack in the vehicle with packaging material and receipts, they showed items weighing a number of kilos had been transported to other parts of the world. This included two parcels intercepted in America which contained drugs.
Text messages from ring leader Palionnijs’ phone showed he was directing the trade of drugs across continents.
The four men were jailed for almost 50 years combined at Great Grimsby Crown Court today, September 8.
It was the culmination of a combined sting led by West Midlands ROCU, along with the National Crime Agency, Europol, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Latvian Organised Crime Division.
Detective Inspector Dave Hollies, from West Midlands ROCU, said: “This was a significant drugs ring and the global pandemic was no deterrent in their carefully-laid plans to import and export across continents.
“It was due to the combined efforts of police forces, and other law enforcement agencies across the world, we were able to pinpoint and bring this network down.
“We’ve not only taken a haul of drugs out of circulation but stopped this gang from trading. Drugs can not only cost lives, but lead to further crime, and there will be no let-up in our work to tackle those involved in the illegal supply of them.”
Palionnijs, 31, was jailed for 14 years and four months; Semjonovs, 29, was jailed for 10 years and six months; Gridin, 36, was jailed for 12 years and three months and Sagamogas, 31, was jailed for 10 years and six months.
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