Six members of an Albanian crime group have been sentenced to a total of more than 30 years in prison for their role in a conspiracy to supply class A drugs and money laundering offences.
The men, which included two brothers – Eduart and Antonio Plaku, were charged following an investigation across Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire by officers from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s specialist Serious and Organised Crime Unit.
The investigation named Operation Perilous ran from June until August last year and focused on the group’s involvement in the supply of class A drugs in St Albans, Luton and surrounding areas along with money laundering offences.
Four of the men were found guilty at St Albans Crown Court last week following a trial and were sentenced last Tuesday. These included:
Eduart Plaku, 37, of Skyline Place, Luton, was sentenced to six years for conspiring to possess criminal property.
Antonio Plaku, 25, of Beech House, Cardiff Road, Luton, was sentenced to 11 years for conspiracy to supply class A drugs between July 28 and August 2 and six years to run concurrently for conspiracy to possess criminal property on June 4 and July 30.
He was also sentenced to six concurrent months in custody for possessing a false identification document.
Albert Cena, 29, of Mill Street, Luton was jailed for four years for conspiracy to transfer criminal property.
Stephen Thomas, 44, of Frogmore Street, St Albans, was sentenced to 21 months in custody for conspiring to possess criminal property on June 4.
Two other men – pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and also received custodial sentences:
Fatjon Shehu, 29, of Park Street, Ampthill pleaded guilty to transferring criminal property and was sentenced to 21 months in prison.
Leonard Hasanaj, 33, of Corncastle Road, Luton pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to supply and was sentenced to three years and four months imprisonment.
The court heard how on June 4, last year, £124,000 was recovered from a sophisticated hiding place in the rear seat of a vehicle on the M1 in Hertfordshire.
Stephen Thomas was driving the vehicle. Passenger Fatjon Shehu pleaded guilty to transferring criminal property and was sentenced to 21 months in custody.
On Wednesday, July 30, police seized £40,960 from a taxi on the M1 in Hertfordshire. The male occupant ran from the taxi and evaded capture. Antonio Plaku handed the bag containing the cash to this male in Luton prior to the vehicle stopping.
On Saturday, August 2, police intercepted Leonard Hasanaj prior to entering Skyline Place, Luton with a rucksack containing 2kg of high grade cocaine.
Antonio Plaku was identified as the intended recipient for the drugs. Leonard Hasanaj pleaded guilty to possession of class A drugs with intent to supply.
Det Insp Ian Butler from the Serious and Organised Crime Unit said: “Brothers Eduart and Antonio Plaktu were the clear ringleaders in this organised crime group but all of the men who were involved in this had a clear role to play and are now paying for their crimes.
“Drug dealing of any kind is unacceptable on the streets of Hertfordshire.
“It brings misery to thousands of vulnerable people and their families whilst fuelling serious and organised crimes that operate miles from where these deals are being done and inflict unnecessary suffering within communities.
“The sentences passed on this group of criminals emphasises how seriously the courts view this type of activity.
“Our message is clear – if you are dealing drugs we will find you and bring you before the courts.”