A PAIR of Albanian drug dealers have been jailed after they were caught bringing £4,480 worth of cocaine to Exeter and Exmouth.
Denis Lami and Valter Kabilo were both asylum seekers who had been in Britain since being trafficked across Europe by criminal gangs in 2020 for a fee of £20,000 a head.
They had been moving around Britain working illegally at car washes or building sites and were living temporarily in Rumney, South Wales when they got involved with a drug gang.
Kabilo was a cocaine addict who owed money for the drug and who persuaded housemate Lami to drive a borrowed Citroen car on three delivery trips to Devon in February this year.
They were stopped on the M5 southbound near Poltimore and police found a package of 51.65 grams of cocaine worth £2,400 wholesale and £4,480 in street prices in Kabilo’s coat pocket.
The two men had been in telephone contact during their journey with a suspected drug dealer who was based in St Thomas, Exeter, but who had travelled to Exmouth on the morning of the drugs run.
Lami spoke no English and when police asked him for his details he handed over the business card of a criminal law firm in London which he already had in his pocket.
During the three years they had each remained in Britain while awaiting asylum adjudications or appeals. The men had lived in Staffordshire, Middlesbrough, Doncaster and South Wales.
They will both be processed for deportation after finishing their jail sentences.
Lami, aged 31, of Warwick Road, Middlesbrough, denied possession of cocaine with intent to supply but was found guilty by a jury at Exeter Crown Court and jailed for three years and five months.
Kabilo, aged 30, of Scot Road, Doncaster, admitted the same charge and was jailed for two-and-a-half years by Judge David Evans, who ordered the confiscation of the car in which they were arrested.
He told them: “A tennis ball sized wrap of cocaine was recovered which was worth £2,400 wholesale but much more if divided up for street sale.
“You played a significant role and acted together as couriers.”
During a two-day trial last month, Mr Thomas Faulkner, prosecuting, said police stopped a car driven by Lami on the M5 Southbound between Junctions 28 and 29 on February 7 this year.
Checks on the masts used by the two men’s mobile phones and from numberplate recognition cameras showed they had come from Rumney in South Wales and had made identical trips on February 2 and 5.
Lami was found to be an Albanian national who said he had been trafficked into Britain in 2020 and who gave an old address in Burton on Trent rather than his current one in Rumney.
He also handed police the business card of a criminal law firm in London and asked them to contact them.
Both Lami and Kabilo had been in touch with an unidentified contact in Exeter, whose phone was shown moving to and from Exmouth before going to Rumney, presumably after learning of their arrest. The man returned to Exeter almost immediately.
Lami told the jury he knew nothing about the drugs in the car and drove his friend Kabilo for a day out. He said it was a fine day and he wanted to go to the seaside.
Miss Helen McAteer, for Lami, said he had been trafficked into Britain because he owed money in Albania and forced to work illegally to repay the money.
Mr Michael McAlinden, for Kabilo, said he paid £20,000 to be smuggled into Britain, where he hoped to find work and support his family in Albania. He had a cocaine addiction and was recruited as a courier to pay off a drug debt.