FOUR men involved in a 'sophisticated operation' to supply drugs from the Netherlands to Britain and Ireland have been convicted following a National Crime Agency investigation.
Anthony Terry, 49, Michael Collis, 62 and Joshpal Singh Kothiria, 33, all from Wolverhampton, as well as Mohammed Omar Khan, 38, from Birmingham, will be sentenced at a later date.
The gang had distributed drugs across Britain and Ireland on several occasions but the net began to close in after the seizure of £1.6m worth of cocaine at Belfast port in February 2021.
"This was a sophisticated operation to smuggle drugs into the UK and Ireland to make significant profit," said Mick Pope, Branch Commander with the National Crime Agency (NCA).
"Terry was the kingpin of this group, offering a service to criminals who needed to obtain drugs or move money.
"These convictions have taken a harmful crime group out of action, and demonstrate the NCA's commitment to protecting the public from serious and organised crime."
Terry had organised the importation of the drugs that were seized at Belfast, which were transported from the Netherlands to England and then on to Northern Ireland via ferry in fuel tanks inside a van.
After he learned about the seizure, surveillance officers in Wolverhampton witnessed Terry moving identical fuel tanks to those found in the van in Belfast to prevent them being linked to him.
He was arrested the same day.
Terry and his associates had been using the encrypted messaging service Encrochat and the NCA identified other occasions in 2020 when he had smuggled drugs and cash for other organised crime groups.
He had enlisted the help of Collis to travel to the Netherlands where he would meet contacts to pick up the cocaine, concealing it in his van.
Khan and Kothiria were then enlisted as drivers, with the former supplying drugs to customers in Britain while the latter supplied them in Ireland.
Deliveries to Wicklow, Leitrim and Limerick
Terry instructed Collis to travel to the Netherlands on April 6, 2020 where he collected 17.5 kilos of cocaine, after which the drugs were divided up.
Khan delivered six kilos to Luton and four kilos to Slough, while Collis transported the remaining five-and-a-half kilos to Co. 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 Co. Leitrim.
A couple of weeks later, Collis picked up 18 kilos of cocaine in the Netherlands, going on to deliver 10 kilos to dealers in Britain before taking the rest to Ireland.
The final drug run captured on Encrochat occurred between May 26 and June 3, 2020, where Terry discussed a cannabis delivery.
Kothiria was sent to pick up the load from Leicestershire and take it to Ireland.
In June 2020, the NCA's Operation Venetic saw the takedown of the Encrochat service and the abandonment of the platform, however, Terry and Collis continued their operation.
Collis travelled to the Hook of Holland again in July and September 2020 before returning to England and travelling onward to Belfast before distributing the drugs in Limerick.
Following Terry's arrest, Collis and Kothiria were arrested in March 2021, while Khan had been arrested earlier in December 2020.
Following a trial in November 2022, Terry was jailed for 18 years in relation to the Belfast cocaine seizure.
He was charged with the 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.
Kothiria and Khan were convicted on Friday at Wolverhampton Crown Court after a two-week trial.