Five men jailed for dealing cocaine in Brighton and Hove

�23,000 cash seized at one of the addresses when detectives made the first arrests in July 2017 (Photograph: Sussex Police)
�23,000 cash seized at one of the addresses when detectives made the first arrests in July 2017 (Photograph: Sussex Police)

A Sussex Police investigation into the supply of cocaine in Brighton and Hove has led to five men being jailed of a total of 67 years.

Police said the men, who were sentenced at Hove Crown Court on Thursday (September 27) for drugs and money laundering offences, were leading figures in a group which trafficked more than 120 kilos of cocaine into the city.

Vakaj (left), Aga (centre) and Hasanaj (right) (Photograph: Sussex Police)

Vakaj (left), Aga (centre) and Hasanaj (right) (Photograph: Sussex Police)

Detectives from the Sussex Police Serious Organised Crime Unit were involved in a two-year investigation into the supply of cocaine into the city via a ‘county lines’ phone system, initially between March 2016 and July 2017.

‘County lines’ are operated by individuals or groups who use mobile phone lines to extend their drug dealing business into new locations away from where they are living, usually urban areas often centred around good transport links.

Each member of the conspiracy was described by Judge David Rennie as having had a ‘leading role’ in the buying and directing of the sale of cocaine on a commercial scale.

A Sussex Police spokesman said: “Leonard Aga, 35, self-employed, of Trotwood, Chigwell, Essex, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, money laundering, and possession of cocaine. false identity documents. He was sentenced to 10 years and was described as having a ‘significant role’ in the chain as a supplier.

Pista (left) and Tafa (right) (Photoograph: Sussex Police)

Pista (left) and Tafa (right) (Photoograph: Sussex Police)

“Also sentenced, having previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, and money laundering, were Ilir Vakaj, 35, of Hampton Road, Teddington, Middx, give 16 years imprisonment, and Ilirjan Hasanaj, 31, of Windermere Road, Bournemouth, given 17 years imprisonment.

“Hysni Tafa, 46, a builder, of Lea Bank, Luton, and Kujedesi Pista, 36, of Cardigan Street, Luton, had previously pleaded guilty to continuing the conspiracy to supply cocaine, between July 2017 and March 2018 once Aga’s activity had been disrupted by the police. Tafa and Pista have both now been sentenced to 12 years.”

In sentencing the men, Judge Rennie said: “What lies at the heart of this case is an organised crime group run by you, Albanians. This was a disciplined well organised and sophisticated group of criminals. Your actions were vile and your trade despicable. Countless young lives were ruined just so that members of your criminal group could prosper. Unfortunately for you, you came to the attention of a group of detectives who themselves were disciplined well organised and sophisticated. On this occasion the police won and you lost, you are all going to prison for a substantial period of time.”

Police said 19 lower level members of the group, whose role was street dealing, had previously been sentenced to terms of up to five-and-a-half years, having also been convicted of supplying cocaine in relation to this case.

Phones were recovered in Cranford by police (Photgraph: Sussex Police)

Phones were recovered in Cranford by police (Photgraph: Sussex Police)

Detective Sergeant Paul Graham said; “Operation Chartwell was an investigation into an Albanian Organised Crime Group (OCG) operating two drug ‘county lines’ into Brighton and Hove.

“During the period of the initial investigation there were believed to be 319,465 separate occasions when the ‘County’ drug lines were contacted. Those contacts represent approximately 6,397 separate customers in the Brighton and Hove area, equating to 155,838 separate cocaine deals. During the indictment period this Organised Crime Group (OCG) supplied 106-165kg of cocaine, netting them in excess of £6.5 million.”