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NCA 'seize the drugs' sting snares Albanian crime gang that worked with British national

AN ALBANIAN organised crime group, which worked with a British national, was caught by a well-used National Crime Agency (NCA) sting to remove 139 kilos of cocaine worth £11million on the streets, before allowing the empty consignment to be collected by the crooks.

The operation, which has repeatedly been used at UK ports, saw Border Force officers, who found a number of cocaine packages in the roof area of a container, remove them before the container was resealed.

The container of bananas had arrived from Ecuador and was searched at London Gateway port in Thurrock, Essex.

A few days later, Robert Ball, who was later found to be acting on behalf of an Albanian organised crime group, contacted the shipping line to ask them to release four containers, including the one he thought contained the drugs.

Ball, 59, (both below) from Hasty Lane, Altrincham, Cheshire, arranged for a transport company to collect and move the containers to a storage company in Herald Way, Coventry.

These movements were watched by NCA surveillance officers.

Ball, along with accomplices Florjan Ibra, Mirgent Shahu and Arman Kaviani, arrived a few days later, on 15 April 2022 (Good Friday). Ball had driven from Cheshire earlier that day, collecting Shahu at a Costa Coffee in Kings Heath, Birmingham.

Ball and Shahu, (both below) from Wyndley Drive, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, gave instructions to Kaviani and Ibra at the storage yard, who used a forklift truck to get on top of the container.

They ripped open the roof using a crowbar (top image Ibra) and starting unloading packages they believed contained the drugs, but as they did so NCA and police officers moved in to arrest them. Kaviani and Ibra attempted to flee but were apprehended.

The four were arrested as they unloaded the shipping container.

All four men were later charged with cocaine importation offences. Ball and Shahu were convicted by a jury at Warwick Crown Court on 26 May this year, while Ibra and Kaviani (below) pleaded guilty at a previous hearing.

At the same court today (1 November 2023) Ball and Shahu were each sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. Ibra was jailed for 13.5 years and Kaviani to 12 years and nine months at previous hearings.

NCA Operations Manager David Phillips said: “Ball and Shahu oversaw the nuts and bolts of this conspiracy on behalf of the organised crime group behind it.

“This group enlisted the assistance of Ibra, of no fixed abode, and Kaviani, of Chandos Way, Golders Green, London, who they hoped would retrieve the drugs and make their efforts worthwhile.

“Unfortunately for these men, NCA officers were watching their every move before moving in to arrest them.

“Cocaine fuels violence and exploitation, including gang culture and firearm and knife crime in the UK and around the world.

“Removing this consignment from circulation will have been a sizeable blow to this criminal network, preventing them from generating profits that would have been invested in further criminality. We are determined to dismantle major international crime groups like this one from top to bottom.”

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said: “This is the latest example of Border Force officers seizing millions of pounds worth of cocaine and dismantling an abhorrent criminal gang.

"This case demonstrates how Border Force use cutting-edge technology to stay ahead of organised crime groups to keep our borders secure and protect our communities from illegal and dangerous substances.”

Caroline Hughes, Specialist Prosecutor for the CPS, said: “The offenders in this case were involved in a sophisticated criminal operation to import a significant amount of cocaine into the UK.

“The supply of drugs is motivated by greed. It is a lucrative business for those involved. It has disastrous consequences for those using drugs, their families and the community: a vast amount of crimes affecting the public are committed by users to pay for their habits.

“The CPS worked closely and effectively with the National Crime Agency to dismantle their dangerous operation, by building a strong case and bringing all of the offenders involved to justice.

“We will be pursuing confiscation proceedings against Robert Ball to recover the money he made from his criminality.”


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