A tenth member of an organised criminal gang which supplied cocaine throughout Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge has been jailed.
In June 2019 nine men received prison sentences of between three and 15 years, for their roles in an extensive supply network which was orchestrated from London. Costel Lipou fled the country during the initial police investigation, but has now also been brought to justice and sentenced to two years and six months in prison.
Between May and October 2018 the gang used one specific mobile phone number – which was based in Surrey Quays, London – to organise the supply of drugs into west Kent. Users placed orders for cocaine by calling the number and confirming their postcode. Dealers living in rented accommodation in Tunbridge Wells would then dispatch drugs to their location.
Detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate built a successful case, which on 11 June 2019 led to prison sentences for the following people, of whom all were convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine:
· Nelson Aliaj, 28, of no fixed address was jailed for 15 years.
· Rigels Hadushaj, 20, of Glashier Street, Deptford, London was jailed for seven years.
· Izmir Basha, 24, of Croft Street, Deptford, London was jailed for seven years.
· Ervis Dervishi, 21, of no fixed address was jailed for six years and nine months.
· Arlind Palushi, 19, of no fixed address was jailed for six years and six months.
· Alfred Gashi, 19, of Lodge Road, Southampton, Hampshire was jailed for six years and
· Fatos Metalia, 23, of no fixed address was jailed for four years.
· Marius Kuci, 25, of Lodge Road, Southampton, Hampshire was jailed for four years.
· Arsid Mataj, 24, of no fixed address was jailed for three years and six months.
Lipou had also been part of the illegal operation and during initial enquiries into the gang’s activities his car was stopped in London Road, Southborough on 13 June 2018. Around 30 wraps of cocaine were seized, along with phones linking him to the London number. He was released from custody, pending further investigation, but fled the country the following day.
On 23 January 2020 Lipou was arrested again, this time as he was about to board a plane from Luton airport to his native Romania. Aged 33, of Hobart Crescent, Willen Park, Milton Keynes, he was charged with possessing cocaine with intent to supply and remanded in custody. He pleaded guilty at Maidstone Crown Court and was sentenced on Thursday 5 March 2020.
Detective Constable Mark Froome said: ‘Lipou played a significant role in a criminal network which was generating more than £4million a year from the supply of around 50 kilograms of cocaine. This investigation has been lengthy and complex, but it also demonstrates our determination to relentlessly pursue criminals like Lipou, regardless of how long they try and evade capture.
‘He is the latest member of this gang to now face justice, but sadly won’t be the last dealer to target communities in these areas. I would like to reassure residents that those who do attempt to supply drugs in our towns can expect the same robust response. Your help continues to be vital in keeping our neighbourhoods safe. Always report any suspicious behaviour to police by calling 101, or 999 if it’s an emergency.’