Gang who smuggled £1m worth of 'invisible' cocaine on broom handles jailed for 135 years

By John Mercury December 15, 2023

A drug smuggling gang who brought £1m worth of cocaine into the UK by painting it onto broom handles using a chemical process which was “invisible to the human eye” have been jailed for a total of 135 years.

The gang smuggled 580 broom handles in a shipping container from Colombia to an industrial estate in the UK in October 2021.

It is thought to be the first time the “novel” method was used to bring drugs into the country, according to the Metropolitan Police.

A forensic expert used by the force said they had never heard of the method before.

They drew on the knowledge of scientists to learn how the Class A drug could later be extracted from the broom handles.

However, none of the drugs made it onto the streets.

Seven men were convicted in June after a lengthy trial, almost two years after they were arrested following a joint operation by the Met and the National Crime Agency.

On Thursday, six were jailed for a total of 135 years at Kingston Crown Court.

Yuni Alexis Pacheco Miranda, 65, from north London, was described as an “experienced and established international drug smuggler” who was “intimately connected” to the conspiracy.

He and Daniel Oliver, 52, from Margate, Kent, were both jailed for 29 years.

Nigel Rogers, 62, from Whitstable, Kent and Ermal Shtrezi, 41, from north London, were handed 23 years behind bars.

Frank Asante, 48, from west London was given an 18-year term while Terrence Allen, 74, from southeast London, was jailed for 13 years.

A seventh defendant, William Adams, 76, from Sittingbourne in Kent, was due to be sentenced on Thursday but it was deferred to a later date due to him being unwell.

The gang coated broomsticks with the Class A drug Pic: Met Police
The gang coated broomsticks with the Class A drug Pic: Met Police

Class A drugs cause ‘untold misery’

Sentencing, Judge Marcus Tregilgas-Davey told the defendants they should be “utterly ashamed” of their behaviour.

“Class A drugs, such as cocaine, cause untold misery,” he said.

“They destroy the lives of individuals, often the lives of young and vulnerable people, and they rip families apart.

“You were engaged in that evil and wicked trade out of pure financial avarice without a care or thought to the harm and devastation your drugs would wreak upon the communities in which they ended up.

“Some of you have children yet were prepared to be part of a criminal enterprise that risked ruining the lives of other people’s children.

“You should be utterly ashamed of your selfish pursuit of financial greed at the untold cost of the lives ruined or to be ruined.”

Pic: Met Police
Pic: Met Police

A bag of cash found at Ermal Shtrezi's address Pic: Met Police
A bag of cash found at Ermal Shtrezi’s address Pic: Met Police

The broomsticks were found close to a cleaning company owned by Allen on the industrial estate.

A police search also unearthed cocaine, MDMA, amphetamines and cannabis in the company safe.

Meanwhile, a further £118,400 in cash was found at the home address of Shtrezi, an Albanian national.

The court heard Miranda and Rogers played a “leading role” in the plot.

But Rogers insisted he only played an “organisational” role in the movement of the drugs, his defence barrister said.

Miranda, a Venezuelan national who represented himself in court with the assistance of a Spanish interpreter, denied leading the operation.

Read more from Sky News:
UK’s largest stash of synthetic opioids seized
Thai police seize record 50 million meth pill stash

Pic: Met Police
Pic: Met Police

Their method of coating broom handles is an example of the “ever more sophisticated” ways gangs try to smuggle narcotics into the UK, according to senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Ben Mahoney.

“What we find interesting from a law enforcement perspective is now we know about a technology, we understand how to extract that,” DCI Mahoney said.

“That allows that knowledge to be shared nationally.”


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