Four men who conspired to supply drugs from the Netherlands to the UK and Ireland have been convicted following a National Crime Agency investigation.
Anthony Terry, 49, from Wolverhampton, organised the importation and was under surveillance when £1.6 million worth of cocaine was seized at Belfast port on 22 February 2021.
The drugs were transported from the Netherlands to England and then across on the ferry to Northern Ireland in fuel tanks being transported within a van.
Pictured: Anthony Terry and Mohammed Omar Khan
When Terry learned about the seizure, officers watched him in the Wolverhampton area moving identical fuel tanks to those found in the van so they would not be linked to him. He was arrested the same day.
Terry and his organised crime group associates were 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.
Terry had enlisted Michael Collis, 62, from Wolverhampton, to travel to the Netherlands where he would meet contacts to pick up the cocaine, concealing it in his van.
Two more drivers were recruited by Terry. Mohammed Omar Khan, 38, from Birmingham, supplied drugs to customers in the UK and Joshpal Singh Kothiria, 33, from Wolverhampton supplied them in the Republic of Ireland.
Terry instructed Collis to travel to the Netherlands on 6 April 2020 and he collected 17.5 kilos of cocaine. From there, the drugs were divided up and, while Khan delivered six kilos to Luton and four to Slough, Collis travelled to the Republic of Ireland to hand over the remaining five-and-a-half kilos in County 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 County Leitrim in the Republic of Ireland.
A couple of weeks later, Collis picked up 18 kilos of cocaine in the Netherlands, going on to deliver 10 kilos to dealers in the UK before taking the rest to Ireland.
The final drug run captured on Encrochat occurred between 26 May and 3 June 2020, where Terry discussed a cannabis delivery. Kothiria was sent to pick up the load from Leicestershire and take it to the Republic of Ireland.
Later in June 2020, the NCA’s Operation Venetic saw the takedown of the Encrochat service and the abandonment of the platform.
Terry and Collis continued their criminality, however, and NCA investigators established that Collis had travelled to the Hook of Holland again in July and September 2020 before returning to England and travelling onward to Belfast. He then distributed the drugs in Limerick in the Republic of Ireland.
Collis and Kothiria were arrested in March 2021. 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 today (19 May) at Wolverhampton Crown Court after a two-week trial.
All four men will be sentenced at a later date to be confirmed.
Mick Pope, NCA Branch Commander, said: “This was a sophisticated operation to smuggle drugs into the UK and Ireland to make significant profit.
“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.”
19 May 2023