September 04, 2019

Albanian crime boss who ran multi-million pound drugs racked ordered to pay only £14,380
An Albanian drugs kingpin who ran a multi-million pound cocaine racket only has to pay back £14,380 after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) requested a “risible” sum, a judge has complained. Gang leader Erald Mema who was jailed for 25 years for flooding the UK with class A drugs was this week given three months to repay and to allow time for the auctioning of his Rolex watch. Judge Peter Ross said he had no option but to approve the pay back order but criticised the CPS for agreeing the figure. The 34-year-old,  who had lived in Botley, Hampshire, brought class A drugs from Albania into the UK together with his co-conspirators and distributed them all over Oxfordshire and beyond. He was caught after a sting operation involving undercover police and drugs raids. At a hearing this week to recover his ill-gotten gains, the CPS asked for just £14,380 despite the racket raking in millions of pounds. Cocaine production: Cocaine-related deaths in England and Wales Presiding Judge Peter Ross said: “This is a man through whose hands millions of pounds of cocaine went. This is a man who on the face of the evidence I heard in the trial has profited massively from what was an enormous drugs operation. “He was a man who was organising what was undoubtedly an organised criminal group, receiving the cocaine at the point of importation, managing its wholesale distribution across the UK to other significant organised criminal groups. “The idea that the only available assets are under £14,500 is simply risible.” Judge Ross also said the case could have been eligible for a “hidden assets” application whereby prosecutors could force him to justify his claims about his lack of wealth. In response, prosecutors said that checks had been made in Albania and in the UK and given the available evidence the decision was taken not to pursue a hidden assets case and to seek just over £14,000 instead. Judge Ross said: “I don’t know who made this choice, made this decision, but whilst I have to make the order, and it seems to me I have no alternative, it should not be taken by the public as an indication that I approve of this. “His sentence reflected the significant role, the huge role, he had. He was at the top of this organised crime group in the UK. I imagine that the defence are delighted to agree to this order.” FAQ | County lines Judge Ross formally declared that the total benefit from criminal activity was £701,680 and that a total of £14,380 could be confiscated as ill-gotten gains. If he defaults on the cash owed he will serve a further three years and six months in prison to run consecutive to his current jail term of 25 years. During Mema's original trial which was held at Oxford Crown Court in October it was revealed that he had been at the helm of a country-wide drugs plot between June 1, 2016, and December 2, 2016. Mema had denied any involvement in the drugs ring but a jury took nine hours and 12 minutes to find him guilty by a majority to two counts of conspiracy to supply class A drugs. After the arrest of one of his co-conspirators - Mema's subordinate Khalad Uddin, officers found hundreds of thousands of pounds of cash at his Scholars Mews apartment as well as at Little Brewery Street in Oxford. Sentencing at the time Judge Ross, who presided over the two-month case, said that Mema had run a 'sophisticated and organised' gang. He said: "The organisation that you headed supplied millions of pounds worth of cocaine around the UK. It was an organisation run on business lines. You are a rarity, you are the top man when it comes to this organised crime operation. "No one reading the newspapers, watching the television news can be in any doubt criminal enterprises such as yours generate violence, serious violence, involving the use of guns and knives."
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