Gang jailed for £1m cocaine-coated broom handle plot

Six men have been jailed after being caught smuggling £1m worth of cocaine into the UK by concealing the drug in varnish on broom handles.

Most of the gang were arrested at an industrial estate near Dartford in October 2021 as they tried to sort the cocaine shipment from Colombia.

Undercover officers had overheard them in a pub plotting to chemically convert the drug into a lacquer.

The jail sentences at Kingston Crown Court ranged between 13 and 29 years.

Seven men in total were found guilty of dozens of drug-related offences including conspiracy to import cocaine.

The gang members included:

  • Yuni Alexis Pacheco Miranda, 65, of The Roundway, Wood Green, north London, jailed for 29 years
  • Daniel Oliver, 52, of The Parade, Margate, Kent, jailed for 29 years
  • Ermal Shtrezi, 41, of Lyndhurst Road, Wood Green, jailed for 23 years
  • Nigel Rogers, 62, of Olympia Way, Whitstable, Kent, jailed for 23 years
  • Frank Asante, 49, of Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, west London, jailed for 18 years
  • Terrence Allen, 74, of Wordsworth Road, Welling, south-east London, jailed for 13 years

A seventh man, William Adams, 75, of Teynham, Kent, was absent from court because of medical reasons and will be sentenced at a later date, Judge Marcus Tregilgas-Davey said.

In his remarks the judge said he regarded Rogers, Asante, Miranda and Oliver as having “lead roles” in the plot but all seven were engaged in the “evil and wicked trade” of drug importation.

broom handles
Image caption,The Met Police said the cocaine seized had a street value of £1m

During the trial, jurors were told Metropolitan Police officers observed a number of meetings as they carried out surveillance on the gang over an eight-month period.

They heard some of men in a pub in Chatham discussing possible ways to conceal the cocaine including hiding it in tins of tomatoes or chopped pineapple.

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Instead, they opted to get the 30kg cocaine converted into the lacquer which was then used to varnish 508 broom handles.

Judge Tregilgas-Davey described the method as a “novel chemical process” which he said “was invisible to the eye”.

He added: “This conspiracy was clearly intended to continue and was only brought to an end by the intervention of law enforcement agencies.

“This was to be a long-term venture for all defendants.”

Terence Allen, Ermal Shtrezi, William Adams and Daniel Oliver
Image caption,Terence Allen, Ermal Shtrezi, William Adams and Daniel Oliver were all convicted for their roles in the plot

Detectives said they worked out Allen and Rogers were operating a company in Belvedere, south-east London, called Pamper Cleaning which offered legitimate professional cleaning services.

But, Judge Tregilgas-Davey said Allen allowed it to be used as a cover for the drugs importation “purely for financial reasons”.

In early October 2021, a shipment of 10,000 broom handles left Port Turbo, Colombia, with 580 later found to be coated in cocaine.

Detectives also worked out the gang laid a false audit trail to divert suspicion, Judge Tregilgas-Davey said.

The court heard a shipping container storing the brooms arrived at London Gateway Port on 23 October 2021 and was transported to an industrial unit in Kent close to Pamper Cleaning.

Two days later, Met Police and National Crime Agency (NCA) officers swooped on the unit as the mops and broom handles were being unloaded from a lorry.

Five men – Rogers, Allen, Miranda, Oliver and Shretzi – were arrested at the scene. Asante and Adams were arrested hours later at their home addresses.

At Shtrezi's address in north London police seized £118,500 in cash as they searched his home following his arrest
Image caption,Police seized £118,500 in cash as they searched Shtrezi’s home address in north London after his arrest

In his sentencing remarks Judge Tregilgas-Davey said he considered Miranda, a Venezuelan national, to be the leading mover in the plot.

After the sentencing, Det Insp Nicola Hawkins said data unearthed from Miranda’s phone – which had been hidden in nearby bushes prior to his arrest – was a “treasure trove” of evidence.

She said images on the phone showed the cocaine “being painted on to the broom handles in Colombia”.

“These men were a group of career criminals with previous convictions for similar offences,” she added.

“Miranda and his accomplices played a hands-on role in the importation and were caught red handed by officers who had been diligently watching them and building strong evidence against them.”

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