Drug gang’s ‘sophisticated’ trafficking network into Ireland uncovered from encrypted chats
May 19, 2023
The crime group used drivers to move cash, as well as cocaine and cannabis, which was smuggled to counties including Leitrim, Wicklow and Limerick.
The scale of the operation was discovered after the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) compromised the gang’s Encrochat communications, a platform which was taken down in 2020.
The three Wolverhampton criminals and a Birmingham man are to be sentenced in the UK at a later date.
Their “kingpin” Anthony Terry (49) was caught with £1.6million (€1.8m) worth of cocaine in Belfast on February 22, 2021.
The drugs had been brought over from the UK on a ferry and were hidden within fuel tanks inside a van.
A major investigation subsequently discovered how he directed two drivers to smuggle drugs in concealed vehicles from mainland Europe into Ireland.
Michael Collis (62) was enlisted to travel to the Netherlands and pick up drugs, which he returned to the UK by hiding them in his van.
In April 2020, Collis collected an estimated €1.2m worth of cocaine before he travelled to Wicklow to hand over 5.5kg of the drug, with a street value of just under €400,000.
Another driver recruited to bring drugs into Ireland was Joshpal Singh Kothiria (33).
Around the same time, Kothiria was dispatched to Leitrim with 10kg of cannabis, with an estimated street value of €200,000.
Weeks later, over €1.2m worth of cocaine was picked up in the Netherlands. The Encrochats uncovered that Collis delivered around 8kg of the drug, with an estimated street value of €560,000, to dealers at an unknown location in Ireland.
Between May 26 and June 3, there were further encrypted messages relating to a cannabis delivery which Kothiria delivered from Leicestershire to Ireland.
That June, the Encrochat service was taken down and disbanded, but the drug enterprise into Ireland continued.
NCA investigations discovered that Collis travelled to the Hook of Holland between July and September 2020 to collect a drugs shipment.
Investigators then tracked his movements back to England and through Belfast before he distributed the drug shipment to a Limerick-based crime gang.
The drug enterprise came to an end when Collis and Kothiria were arrested in March 2021.
Following a two-week trial, Kothiria was today found guilty of conspiracy to commit crime abroad.
A co-accused who delivered drugs around the UK, Birmingham man Mohammed Omar Khan (40), was convicted of conspiring to supply Class A drugs.
The other driver who trafficked cocaine and cannabis into Ireland, Michael Collis, has admitted to cocaine importation and conspiring to commit crime abroad.
The leader of the crime network, Anthony Terry, previously admitted to importing cocaine, conspiring to supply class A drugs, and three counts of conspiracy to commit crime abroad.
He is also serving an 18-year jail term over the Belfast drugs bust.
Mick Pope, NCA Branch Commander, said: “This was a sophisticated operation to smuggle drugs into the UK and Ireland to make significant profit.
“Terry was the kingpin of this group, offering a service to criminals who needed to obtain drugs or move money.
“These convictions have taken a harmful crime group out of action, and demonstrate the NCA’s commitment to protecting the public from serious and organised crime.”