Gang hid drugs in yams and papaya
Investigation bears fruit for police
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.