Seven leading members of an organised crime group sentenced to 111 years’ imprisonment for conspiring to supply at least 1 tonne of cocaine

20 Jan, 2020

James Thacker led by Christopher Donnellan QC successfully prosecuted seven leading members of an OCG who organised and distributed substantial quantities of high purity cocaine (80-96%) collected in the West Midlands and conveyed to the edges of London; Watford, Borehamwood, areas within Essex and Kent, Kingston upon Thames, Northolt, and Chalfont. This follows one trial that was stopped for legal reasons in 2018 and two trials, each last 3 months, in 2019.

Following a sentencing hearing between 13th and 15th January 2020 Her Honour Judge Coello, sitting at Kingston Crown Court, sentenced the seven defendants to a combined total of 111 years’ imprisonment with the principal organiser of the conspiracy ‘O’ sentenced to 27 years’ imprisonment.

A further seven defendants had already been sentenced after entering guilty pleas. Two defendants were not proceeded with, due to serving sentences of life imprisonment.

In total, over 100kg of high purity cocaine was seized during the investigation (Operation Labootan) by the Organised Crime Syndicate of the Metropolitan Police however considering the movements of members of the OCG, analysis of telephone data communications, and quantity of cutting agents, a more realistic estimate of the quantity involved was at least 1 tonne of cocaine (wholesale value at least £32.5 million).

The OCG used pay as you go, PGP enabled, Movistar encrypted, and Encrochat devices. This investigation was the first to encounter Encrochat, a sophisticated encrypted platform to avoid detection by law enforcement authorities.

The Judge, before passing individual sentences, highlighted the need for statutory regulation, particularly in regard to the use of encrypted devices and telephones in prisons.

Due to the quantities of drugs involved in this case, the Judge was required to consider a sentence for each defendant that was in excess of the highest category within the Sentencing Guidelines. The Judge described the estimated quantity of 1 metric tonne of cocaine as “a conservative estimate”.

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