Published: 12:43, 15 May 2020
| Updated: 13:43, 15 May 2020
Four members of a drugs network have been jailed for a total of more than 50 years after concealing hundreds of kilos of cocaine inside frozen chicken.
Officers witnessed two men exchange a holdall packed with 11 kilos of Class A drugs during a stakeout on Church Street in Shadoxhurst, near Ashford in June 2019.
Emanuel Jella, 20, of Chatham Road, Kingston, was arrested at the scene but his accomplice Francis Sullivan, 22, of Clayhill Crescent, Mottingham in Bromley managed to flee.
Further investigation revealed the pair had been working as part of an organised crime network based at an industrial estate in Lympne, Hythe.
The operation was led by Thomas Lordan, 38, of Hurst Road in Sidcup, Bexley who had set up a front company, Independent Meat Ltd to conceal the transport of hundreds of kilos of cocaine since May 2019.
The group had stashed the drugs in frozen chicken and marrow bones to avoid detection.
Another man, Mehmet Ali, 62, of Ministry Way, Eltham had also been working as part of the crime outfit.
He was arrested by officers at the network's headquarters in Lympne on August 22 while trying to move 55 kilos of cocaine from the truck he was driving to a unit in Firsland Park in East Sussex.
A few hours after Ali was arrested, Lordan bought a one way flight to Turkey and flew out the same day.
Meanwhile escapee Sullivan was arrested on September 24 at his home where officers also seized £32,000 in cash, scales, and a small amount of cocaine.
Lordan was eventually apprehended on a European Arrest Warrant by Dutch police at Amsterdam Airport on January 14 and was later extradited to the UK.
He admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was sentenced to 18 years at Lewes Crown Court yesterday.
Accomplices Ali and Sullivan also pleaded guilty to the same charges and were sentenced to 15-and-a-half-years and 10 years respectively.
Jella was previously jailed to six years and seven months for the same offence at Southwark Crown Court.
National Crime Agency (NCA) operations manager Matt McMillan praised the dismantling of a "well established drug supply route".
He said: “This seizure of a significant amount of cocaine means it hasn’t ended up on the streets, fuelling violence and exploitation.
“Lordan provided the logistics with Sullivan and Ali acting as trusted lieutenants.
"They used a front company in an effort to disguise their criminality, thinking they could evade capture. But, as this case shows, if you engage in drug trafficking you will be caught.
“The NCA and the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) will continue to work with partners to target and disrupt the criminal networks involved in drug supply to make our streets safer.”
DCI Tony O’Sullivan, from the Metropolitan Police, said: “This investigation is yet another great example of joint partnership working between the Met and the NCA to crackdown on the supply of illegal drugs within London and the home counties.
“Drugs blight communities and ruin lives and so it is great news that we have been able to seize this colossal haul of Class A drugs that would have otherwise ended up on the streets. I have no doubt that we have massively disrupted a major drugs network operating in London and Kent.
“It is important to remember the strong link between drugs and violence and by removing this amount of cocaine from the market we have undoubtedly prevented incidents of serious violence and potentially saved lives.
“Even during these challenging times, we will continue to target those involved in organised crime and the supply of illegal drugs and we will take robust action against them.”
More by this authorSean Delaney