Jail terms for Luton gang caught red-handed with £250k worth of cocaine

Four members of a Luton gang caught red-handed with hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of cocaine have each been jailed for over a decade

Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 1:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 5:08 pm

The investigation by Bedfordshire Police launched last year and seized around £250,000 worth of drugs, as well as £150,000 in cash.

Between January and June 2020, detectives were able to identify Kamran Bashir, 37, Blazej Holub, 38, Ibraz Iqbal, 26, and Krysztof Kozon, 42, by their user names as they carried out their business on Encrochat phones.

These specialist devices use an encrypted text message application which allows the user to take a particular username or handle to exchange secure messages with other users.

(Top, left to right) Kamran Bashir and Blazej Holub; (Bottom, left to right) Ibraz Iqbal and Krzysztof Kozon.

Each device has the ability to delete messages and other content after a specified time period, or if the handset is believed to have been compromised.

In July 2020, police arrested Bashir at his place of work and found two Encrochat devices and half a kilogram of cocaine in his staff locker. When officers searched his car and home address, they discovered approximately £130,000 of cash.

Iqbal, who had already been convicted of drugs offences in 2007, was found to be sourcing drugs directly from a supplier and using nearby business premises as a base for the huge quantities of cocaine to be delivered to.

He was arrested on the same day as Bashir and approximately £20,000 of cash was seized from the business premises.

Police seized £250k worth of cocaine (left) and around £150k in cash (right)

Through the Encrochat messages, police were able to identify Iqbal’s supplier, which turned out to be Holub, who was importing wholesale quantities of cocaine into the UK.

In June 2020, Holub had travelled to mainland Europe via the EuroTunnel, returning from Poland to London Luton Airport in August, where he was swiftly arrested.

When searched, he was found to be in possession of a Rolex watch, cash, bank cards, an iPad and a number of phones, including an encrypted device.

Officers went on to seize designer handbags, jewellery and cash from his home address.

Kozon’s role in the ‘business’ was as a driver and custodian for Holub.

A stop and search in Hounslow led to his arrest in July 2020. Two brown taped packages with black crosses marked on them, consistent with blocks of Class A drugs, were found in the vehicle he was driving, along with four mobile phones.

When his home address was searched, police found a sports bag containing three more brown packages identical to the ones found in his car and a further five mobile phones, one of which was an encrypted device.

The five blocks of drugs were later estimated to have a combined street value of around £250,000.

All four were yesterday (Monday) sentenced at Luton Crown Court.

> Bashir, 37, of Stratford Road, Luton, was jailed for a total of 16 years and three months.

> Holub, 38, of Napier Road, Luton, was also jailed for a total 16 years and three months.

> Iqbal, 36, of Woodland Avenue, Luton, was jailed for a total of 12 years and seven months.

> Kozon, 42, of Hale End Road, East London, received an 11 year prison term.

Detective Superintendent Nick Skipworth, who is leading Operation Costello, said: “Under this specialist operation, we have managed to disrupt another organised crime group which has blighted lives and communities in Luton.

“This is the calibre of criminal we are going after under Op Costello. We want to take out the major players involved in drugs supply and its associated violence locally, which we believe will have a huge impact in terms of protecting vulnerable people, as well as our communities more widely, from violence and exploitation.

“The extra funding that we have received is a great boost for us to continue this huge opportunity of going after these criminal groups and in turn stamping out all the criminality associated with it, such as anti-social behaviour, serious youth violence, knife crime, human trafficking – much of which is directly linked to the illegal drugs trade.

“We are determined to attack this criminality, but we do need our communities to help by being our eyes and ears and tell us if they have any concerns or see anything suspicious. If you suspect someone is involved in organised crime, please report it and help us make a difference.”

Since Operation Costello was launched a year ago, 51 people have been arrested and almost 100 warrants carried out, with nearly 100 kilos of Class A drugs and more than £1 million in assets seized in Luton by Bedfordshire Police and the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit.

Anyone with information about drug dealing can contact Bedfordshire Police on 101 or via the force’s online reporting centre.

Alternatively, you can report information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.