A MULTI-MILLION pound drugs ring responsible for bringing high-grade cocaine into the Portsmouth area has been smashed.
Ten members of the gang based in the city are facing lengthy prison sentences after being found guilty of a long-running conspiracy.
Nine were convicted after an eight-week trial at Portsmouth Crown Court while one pleaded guilty.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Phil Attwood, from the serious and organised crime unit based at Fratton, said: ‘They are a professional organised network that operated for a lengthy period of time involving the supply of high-grade cocaine and significant quantities of cutting agent from China.
‘It’s going to have a huge ongoing impact on the reduction of the amount of high-purity cocaine on the streets of Portsmouth.
‘The suspected drug runs to Luton and north London over seven occasions, which were suspected to be half-kilo drug runs per time, coupled with the significant quantities of cutting agent Benzocaine, would make this a multi-million pound conspiracy.’
They are a professional organised network that operated for a lengthy period of time involving the supply of high-grade cocaine and significant quantities of cutting agent from ChinaDetective Constable Phil Attwood
During the trial jurors were shown body-worn footage of roofer Samuel McNamee’s home showing what prosecutor Barnaby Shaw called a ‘rich lifestyle’.
McNamee was stopped by police in a Volkswagen Scirocco and officers found £8,500 in cash and a Rolex watch.
Thousands of pounds seized from McNamee and brothers Lorenc Ymeraj and Skender Ymeraj was contaminated with cocaine, the court heard.
Mr Shaw added: ‘They lived a rich lifestyle because they have the illegitimate gain of the supply of cocaine.’
Undercover detectives followed the gang and snapped surveillance photos of them conducting meetings in the back of Skender Ymeraj’s Vauxhall Astra.
One photo on July 11 last year even caught McNamee showing Skender Ymeraj his bail sheet having been arrested three days before.
He had been stopped by police on July 8 with Daniel Paterson. Officers seized three knotted bags of cocaine weighing 83.8 grams at 71 per cent purity and another bag under a gram at 67 per cent purity. The total street value was £11,270.
Jurors were told how conspirators shipped in the cutting agent Benzocaine in vast quantities to dilute the drugs. Stacey Smith was involved in obtaining the benzocaine, the court heard.
In May while McNamee was in Amsterdam, Skender Ymeraj supplied McNamee’s father-in-law with half a kilo of 90 per cent cocaine worth £90,000.
The court heard the supply of the drugs was organised through phone calls and meetings with Agin Degani.
Degani, then a prisoner in a Welsh prison who has since been deported to Albania, did not face trial.
The court heard George Browning helped McNamee get in contact with a man known as ‘Logistics’ in north London to get the cocaine.
Jurors were played phone calls recorded in prison between Degani and the conspirators. The gang supplied drugs on a commercial, wholesale and retail scale, the court heard.
The jury found the following defendants guilty of conspiring to supply class A drug cocaine with Agin Degani between June 12, 2013 and October 2014:
* Daniel Paterson, 34, currently of Heritage Way, Gosport.
* Kevin Williams, 45, of Willersley Close, Paulsgrove.
* Lorenc Ymeraj, 31, of Lords Street, Landport.
* Skender Ymeraj, 25, of Wingfield Street, Buckland.
* Stacey Smith, 38, of Oriel Road, North End.
* Matthew Hallett, 34, of Anmore Road, Waterlooville.
* George Browning, 41, of Mill Road, Emsworth.
Samuel McNamee, 28, of Rockrose Way, Paulsgrove, pleaded guilty to the charge part-way through the trial.
The jury were unable to reach a verdict in Jonathan Palmer’s case and the conspiracy charge against Robert Hoadley was dismissed. The CPS are to decide if they will pursue any case against them.
Luljeta Ymeraj, 30, of Lords Street, Landport, and Sunil Singh, 23, of Laburnum Grove, Portsmouth, were found guilty of money laundering between March 5, 2010 and September 21, 2014. They are due to be sentenced next week.
Adam Derry, 33, of Raymond Road, Paulsgrove, and Simon Smith, 45, of Wymering Lane, Wymering, who were accused in the conspiracy, were found not guilty.
The CPS is to decide if it will seek prosecutions in the cases of Robert Hoadley, 34, of East Shore Way, Milton, and Jonathan Palmer, 38, of Highgate Road, Copnor, who had faced the conspiracy charge.