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East Midlands police operation sees drugs gangs jailed for 420 years

Four years of investigative work led to 45 individuals being sentenced in court with more than 420 years of imprisonment being imposed.

It was back in April 2020 when the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) launched an investigation into the supply of class A drugs – but this one was a bit different.

A huge law enforcement operation had been carried out in 2020 between UK, French and Dutch authorities which had led to the dismantling of an encrypted chat platform ‘Encrochat’. The communication service was found to be used by criminals to plan and co-ordinate illegal activity.

Infiltrating access to the platform gave European agencies, including the UK’s National Crime Agency, access to millions of messages and images exchanged between users in relation to criminal activity and led to a massive breakthrough in the fight against serious and organised crime.

Following this dismantling breakthrough, specialist officers from EMSOU came across the names of three suspects to investigate in relation to the supply of class A drugs.

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What the team didn’t know at the time, was that this was the start of an extensive investigation which would uncover multiple offenders and crimes which spanned the country and with one arrest even taking place across international borders.

Detective Sergeant Chris Sewell, who led the investigation, said:

“As our investigative work started, it led us to more customers and more suppliers of class A drugs across the country – ultimately the chain of our suspects kept increasing.

“I don’t think at that initial starting point though that we predicted just how huge it would be – but as we uncovered more crimes and more people involved, we just knew we had to continue our work, continue following tracks and continue to uncover the full extent of this serious organised crime.”

“Once the team had enough evidence in place, police enforcement operations were then carried out throughout 2020 and 2021 across the country. This led to suspects being arrested and huge quantities of class A drugs and cash being recovered.

“But not all suspects were arrested straight away – one of the suspects had fled the UK and needed to be extradited from his hideout in Spain while another suspect remained at large for three months before being located in Hampshire.”

In total, 47 people were charged with offences.

DS Sewell said: “As the arrests and charges were made, our work did of course continue in the lead up to the court case. We had to ensure we had all the evidence in place and that we could show exactly how these drug networks had operated. This takes a lot of time, dedication, patience and persistence to ensure you are answering all questions that might be asked and all challenges that might be presented”

The investigation saw 12.5kg of cocaine seized alongside 2kg of amphetamine. Around £350,000 in cash was obtained from the supply of class A drugs while hundreds of thousands of pounds was also found in bank accounts and/or property equity. Five high value vehicles were also seized as well as 84 units of bitcoin cryptocurrency, currently worth between £3million and £4million and several high value Rolex watches and other jewellery.

Enquiries carried out by the team saw more than 1,500 statements taken with 3,300 pieces of evidence gathered.

A number of court hearings have been heard since 2021 with 41 of the defendants charged pleading guilty to offences while four people were convicted of offences following trial.

One person was acquitted of charges at court while one person was absolutely discharged from the case by the court due to ill health.

A total of 42 of the defendants were sentenced to imprisonment – with a total of more than 420 years imprisonment passed. Three of the defendants received suspended sentences.

DS Sewell said: “To have guilty pleas at court is purely down to the meticulous investigative work of the team which ultimately left little choice for the defendants but to accept responsibility in court. To then have large sentences passed in court shows that action will be taken against those involved in drug offending.

“But of course this wouldn’t happen without people providing information to us and without the dedicated team we have continually working to uncover the truth. Drugs really do harm our communities. Please continue to work with us and please continue to report your concerns to us – we will take action and we will investigate and we will bring those responsible before the courts”

“You can report online at www.leics.police.uk or by calling 101. Always call 999 in an emergency.

“Please also remember that if you are affected by drugs misuse and want support to make change, you can contact Turning Point who offer a variety of treatment options and will support you. More information is available at https://www.turning-point.co.uk/ or by calling 0330 3036000.

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