Gang hid drugs in yams and pa­paya

In­ves­ti­ga­tion bears fruit for po­lice

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By Amita Joshi amita.joshi@trin­i­tymir­

A GANG of drug deal­ers caught im­port­ing co­caine and cannabis con­cealed in­side fake yams and pa­paya fruit, have been col­lec­tively sen­tenced to more than 38 years in prison.

Four out of the five men were sen­tenced on Tues­day last week at Isle­worth Crown Court, hav­ing all pre­vi­ously pleaded guilty to var­i­ous counts of drugs im­por­ta­tion and drugs sup­ply of­fences.

Jar­nail Singh, Tazio Heath, Luis Restrepo, Dono­van Bai­ley and Bar­ring­ton Ben­nett were iden­ti­fied and ar­rested af­ter a Metropoli­tan Po­lice Or­gan­ised Crime Com­mand in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Of­fi­cers stopped Ben­nett, 58, on Jan­uary 13 last year, shortly af­ter he picked up a num­ber of boxes from a freight com­pany in Southall.

When po­lice seized the boxes they found bags of dried fruit and nuts la­belled Fancy Is­land Mix, but when the con­tents were foren­si­cally an­a­lysed it was found they con­tained two ki­los of crack co­caine rocks coloured or­ange to look like pa­paya.

Of­fi­cers ar­rested Singh, 39, the fol­low­ing day af­ter he was seen to be in con­voy with Ben­nett and made a de­liv­ery of sev­eral other boxes at an ad­dress in Beres­ford Road, in Mild­may Ward.

Po­lice ex­e­cuted a search war­rant at the ad­dress, where they ar­rested Restrepo, 40, and dis­cov­ered what turned out to be 33.8kg of herbal cannabis dis­guised as yams, which had been hid­den amongst real yams in the boxes Singh de­liv­ered.

Another ship­ment of 36kg of cannabis, again dis­guised as yams, was seized by Border Force of­fi­cers at Gatwick Air­port on March 7 last year, with the in­tended re­cip­i­ent be­ing Heath, 24, at the same Southall freight com­pany.

Fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions linked Heath with Bai­ley, 50, the owner of a record­ing stu­dio in Read­ing.

Of­fi­cers from Thames Val­ley Po­lice car­ried out a search war­rant at Bai­ley’s stu­dio on April 13 last year, where 22 rolls of herbal cannabis were found.

Bai­ley was ar­rested and CCTV footage seized from his stu­dios showed him meet­ing Heath on March 25 and March 30, where the pair can be seen ex­chang­ing large amounts of cash.

A fur­ther 40kg of herbal cannabis was seized by Border Force of­fi­cers at Gatwick Air­port, with the in­tended re­cip­i­ent again be­ing Heath, on April 29, the Met Po­lice said.

Heath was ar­rested and Singh re-ar­rested on May 12 last year af­ter tak­ing pos­ses­sion of a fur­ther 25kg of cannabis dis­guised as yams, im­ported from Ja­maica, and de­liv­ered to the same Southall freight com­pany the day be­fore.

De­tec­tive Con­sta­ble Cather­ine Pear­son, from the Met’s Or­gan­ised Crime Com­mand, said: “This po­lice oper­a­tion suc­cess­fully dis­man­tled a so­phis­ti­cated crime net­work that was reg­u­larly im­port­ing drugs into the UK dis­guised as food.

“Jar­nail Singh and Tazio Heath were cen­tral to this crim­i­nal net­work that had gone to great lengths to con­ceal co­caine as pa­paya pieces and hide cannabis in­side fake yams, in a clear bid to evade de­tec­tion by UK Border Force.”

DC Pear­son, added: “The gang demon­strated their so­phis­ti­ca­tion by us­ing en­crypted mo­bile de­vices in a bid to frus­trate any po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but de­spite their ef­forts we were still able to piece to­gether enough ev­i­dence to leave them lit­tle choice other than to plead guilty.”

De­tec­tive Sergeant Ni­cola Hawkins, also of the Or­gan­ised Crime Com­mand, added: “I am ex­tremely proud of the dili­gence and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of my team that has re­sulted in the sen­tences handed down to­day.

“Work­ing with our col­leagues from Thames Val­ley Po­lice and UK Border Force we have stopped the ac­tiv­i­ties of this gang and pre­vented a large amount of drugs from be­ing sold on the streets of Lon­don.”

All five men were charged with var­i­ous drugs of­fences in May last year and pleaded guilty to the fol­low­ing of­fences:

Singh, a com­pany di­rec­tor of New Gun Wharf, and Clay­hall Av­enue, Il­ford, was sen­tenced to a to­tal of 19 years’ im­pris­on­ment hav­ing pleaded guilty to con­spir­acy to im­port­ing Class A and B drugs.

Heath, an elec­tri­cian of Turkey Street, En­field, pleaded guilty to con­spir­acy to im­port Class A and B drugs and con­spir­acy to sup­ply Class B drugs, and was sen­tenced to a to­tal of seven years in jail.

Restrepo, unem­ployed of Beres­ford Road, pleaded guilty to pos­ses­sion of co­caine with in­tent to sup­ply and con­spir­acy to sup­ply Class B drugs, and was sen­tenced to seven years be­hind bars.

Bai­ley, of Palmer Park Av­enue, pleaded guilty to con­spir­acy to sup­ply Class B drugs and was sen­tenced to two years’ im­pris­on­ment.

Painter and dec­o­ra­tor, Ben­nett, of no fixed ad­dress, pleaded guilty to con­spir­acy to sup­ply Class B drugs and was sen­tenced on De­cem­ber 2 to three years and nine months’ im­pris­on­ment.

Kamla Jalaf, 57, of Clay­hall Av­enue, Il­ford, was charged in May last year with pos­ses­sion of crim­i­nal prop­erty, but the charges were later dis­con­tin­ued.

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