Cocaine gang supplied Southwest dealers, court hears

An organized criminal group is said to have brought hundreds of thousands of pounds of cocaine to dealers in the Southwest.

A police surveillance operation led to the seizure of three kilograms of drugs and almost £ 160,000 in cash during a surrender in Bristol, while another transaction took place at a holiday park in Chudleigh, a declared a jury.

Further sightings were made at a house in Brixham and an apartment in Efford, Plymouth, where further deliveries were reportedly made by two Albanian men.

Police investigations also revealed movements of the same two men in Penzance, linked to a telephone contact with a dealer in the city.

A group of three men were tried at Exeter Crown Court on charges of being part of the organized crime group in late 2019. The jury heard that three others had admitted to the plot.

The drugs were reportedly brought to the west of the country by Albanians Adi Lleshi and Nark Vasija during a series of trips between July 1 and November 29, 2019.

The operation ended when Lleshi was arrested with three kilograms of cocaine worth up to £ 240,000 at a suburban house in Knowle, Bristol on November 28.

Prior surveillance and telephone inquiries led to the arrest of the others shortly thereafter.

The evidence in the case is so complex that the jurors were each given an iPad so they could follow them. It includes data from phones used by men, license plate recognition cameras that tracked journeys, and surveillance footage.

Adi Lleshi, 25, from London; John Minchinton, 42, formerly of Kings Drive, Brixham, but now homeless; and Michael Williams, 59, of Padstow Road, Knowle, Bristol, all deny the existence of a conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Mark Vasija, 26, from London; Tyler Harrison, 27, of Torridge Way, Efford, Plymouth, and Steven Evans, 43, of Mount Lidden, Penzance, all admitted the same charge.

Mr Richard Posner, prosecuting, said police intercepted Lleshi as he arrived at Williams’ home on November 28, 2018, with three kilograms of high purity cocaine with a wholesale value of £ 100,000 and a market value of up to £ 240,000.

Williams was seen inside his parents’ house, which was next to his own, packing something into a suitcase.

Officers entered and found half a kilo of cocaine and just under £ 160,000 in cash under the stairs.

Mr Posner said Lleshi and Vasija had already made trips to supply Minchinton to Brixham, Harrison to Plymouth and Evans to Penzance in the past four months.

Those involved used multiple phones, some encrypted, to arrange deliveries and Lleshi was seen carrying a large bag to apartments in Efford where Harrison lived.

Cocaine worth £ 10,000 and £ 25,000 in cash was seized from Evans’ home in Penzance.

Traces of cocaine were found on a scale and spoon during two searches of Minchinton’s home in Brixham and he was seen throwing powder in the toilet during a search.

Payments of £ 18,000 were made to his partner’s bank account by a man he brought cocaine to while staying at Finlake Holiday Park near Chudleigh.

An officer overheard a conversation between Lleshi and Minchinton on November 5 in which they discussed three packs, two of nine ounces and one of 18 ounces.

Mr Posner said: “Lleshi was an integral part of the supply chain, as evidenced by his behavior during his visits to Williams in Bristol, Evans in Penzance and Harrison in Plymouth.

“The other defendants pleaded guilty, which proves that there was a conspiracy. Lleshi was responsible for delivering the product and collecting the money.

The trial is continuing and is expected to last a month.

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