Cutting agent suppliers jailed

12/02/2013

Three men, who imported white powder that could be used to cut a quarter of a billion pounds' worth of heroin and cocaine, were jailed today, Tuesday, 12 February 2013, to a combined total of more than 20 years.

Anthony Savva, 29, his brother Vangelis Savva, 26, and Gursu Akgun, 29, bought the pharmaceuticals, benzocaine and lidocaine, into the UK from the Far East in loads of a quarter to half a tonne.

They set up a website offering the chemicals for sale with "no questions asked," St Albans Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Thomas Payne said dealers add the cutting agent to class A drugs to reduce their purity and increase their value. When an investigation was launched the police discovered that £36,000 had been spent on buying the cutting agents, which have legitimate medical and veterinary uses, from the Far East.

Between three and a half to four tons of the powder was imported, which he said, would have cut drugs to the value of £246 million. The deals often took place in car parks for cash and where dealers arranged to take delivery of the powder.

Anthony Savva was the driving force behind the operation and his brother Vangelis was his assistant. Akgun's role was likened to that of a sales manager.

Anthony Savva, of Southfield Road, Enfield, Vangelis Savva, of Cobham Close, Enfield,  and Gursu Akgun, of Lawrence Avenue, London, E17, pleaded guilty to assisting in the supply of Class A drugs. Anthony Savva also admitted possessing a stun gun.

Annette Henry, for Anthony Savva, asked for credit for his guilty plea. She said that at the time he believed he was acting within the law.

For Vangelis Savva, Allan Compton, said the defendants were not the only three people involved. He said Vangellis had no direct dealing with suppliers, except for one payment. "We accept his role was important and useful.  It is a long way from being an organiser. He dipped in and out of the enterprise," he said.

"He was not living the life of Riley at the time. He was driving an X-registered car and living in a flat with his girlfriend, who is expecting his child."

Roy Andrew, for Akgun, said he had studied computing at University and built a website for Anthony Savva as a friend. He received £3,000 for 6 months' involvement in the conspiracy. He simply processed and distributed smaller orders. "He was not involved in the importation or storage. His role was one of counter staff. Had he known he was doing anything illegal he would not have got involved," he said.

Judge John Plumstead jailed Anthony Savva for nine years and Vangellis Savva and Gursu Akgun for six years nine months each.

He said: "The idea came from Anthony Savva. He thought he could made a profit by exploiting a loophole. He was propping up and assisting the class A drug trade on a massive scale. The trade is evil and does untold harm."

Baljit Ubhey OBE, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: "We have worked closely with ERSOU since this investigation was launched.  These defendants, led by Antony Savva, were involved in a professional and organised operation to pedal substantial quantities of pharmaceutical grade powder to persons involved in the drugs trade.  These powders, including benzocaine and lidocaine have only a miniscule legitimate market in the UK. One of the powders sold was phenaticin, which is both illegal in the UK and also carcinogenetic.

"The sales often took place in secluded locations with thousands of pounds being exchanged for bags of powder. The powders were then destined to be cut, or mixed in, with cocaine to maximise the profits for the cocaine dealers. They tried to pretend they were a legitimate business who was in the dark as to what the powders could be used for. They continued to import hundreds of kilos of powders from China despite consignments being stopped at the ports and being contacted by SOCA asking them what they were doing.  An illustration of the level of their behaviour can be gained from looking at the powder they had at home and in storage, waiting to be sold. The police found nearly 3.5 tonnes of powder in storage, enough powder to cut with cocaine to a value of £246,000,000.

"The impact on communities of high level drug dealing is immense. Drugs can ruin the lives of those who use them and damage the lives of law abiding citizens who become the victims of crimes committed to fund drug habits. The defendants were motivated by money, without a care for the misery their actions were causing to the lives of others.

"Thanks to a dedicated and detailed police investigation, followed by a robust prosecution, a substantial quantity of these powders have been removed from the supply chain, these big time criminals have been removed from society, and the public has been made safe from their dangerous, harmful, and life destroying activities.

"This case sends out a clear message that the CPS and the police take these offences very seriously and anyone involved in the drugs trade can expect to be prosecuted robustly. We will continue to work closely with our partners to ensure that persons involved in this kind of criminality are brought to justice."

This investigation was led by ERSOU (Eastern Region Special Operations Unit), a regional crime squad that tackles serious and organised crime across six force areas, which became operational in July 2010.

ERSOU was formed to increase and improve operational capacity and capability in dealing with cross-border criminals and is resourced by Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, and Suffolk forces. ERSOU is committed to serving residents across the region and carries out proactive operations to tackle cross-border organised crime.

Confiscation proceedings are to be held at a later date.

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