Now the gangsters face deportation after an undercover operation by detectives in Manchester’s swankiest bar
A sophisticated ‘ dial-a-drug ‘ crime syndicate has been brought down by a huge police operation.
The gang of 20 Albanian criminals scooped £250,000 pound selling high-grade cocaine the Manchester’s clubbers .
Now the gangsters face deportation after an undercover operation by detectives in some of the city’s swankiest bars.
Known in underworld circles as ‘The Albanians’, the network of dealers dressed in designer gear to blend in at venues at Deansgate, the nearby Locks and Spinningfields.
They even targeted affluent revellers outside the luxury Beetham Tower – but ended up selling to a covert officer instead.
Based in lavishly decorated apartments in the outskirts of the city centre, the dealers were recruited in Albania to operate in Manchester because of the city’s thriving nightlife, officers believe.
Having entered the country illegally, gang members used fake Italian and Greek passports to evade detection.
They would offer to people on the street and in bars, as well as running a 24/7 ‘dial-a-drug’ line which surprised officers with its speed and professionalism.
Police believe they worked with Manchester’s more established gangs – but were arming themselves with guns in case of conflict.
The authorities will now seek to claw back some of the cash made from their racket using the Proceeds of Crime Act.
It’s understood around £125,000 in assets is recoverable – much of it in cash seized on raids on their adresses.
Codenamed Operation Cortez, GMP’s crackdown is the first-ever ‘test purchase’ operation in the city centre.
Test purchase operations involve police posing as drug users to build cases against dealers.
Previous operations have concentrated on pushers selling crack and heroin to addicts in deprived areas, but this campaign involved dealers targeting upwardly mobile recreational users.
The operation climaxed with dawn raids in February 2015 at 17 addresses across North and South Manchester, Salford, Trafford and North Wales. A total of 24 people were arrested for drugs, immigration, firearms and false document offences.
In total drugs with an estimated value of £130,000 were recovered, two firearms, ammunition, a magazine and silencer.
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The full details of the racket can be revealed now the last criminal identified by the operation, which involved five months of covert work, has been locked up.
Gentjan Baro’s flat at Ludgate Hill, Collyhurst, was raided after police arrested the 25-year-old in the company of a drug dealer pal. A gun and ammuntion was found hidden behind his toilet cistern.
Mevlan Gjeta, 33, of Ellesmere St, Hulme was one of the main players. A kilo of cocaine was found at his address, plus £55,000 in a drawer. He has been jailed eight years for supplying cocaine and possessing criminal property.
Detective Constable Alex Mulhall, who led the undercover team on the ground, said: “Manchester city centre had a problem with cocaine, so we used covert tactics, went into the city centre and purchased it.
It was totally different sort of test purchase job, because in criminal terms the dealers were under the radar.
“They didn’t have previous and we didn’t know who they were, or where they were from.
“What we found was the supply of cocaine was extremely lucrative, the quality of cocaine was of extraordinary quality – 60 to 80 per cent import quality – and the dealers were making significant money from it.
“It’s not the usual low level street supply you see, if you were a drug user it was a good quality service.
“The dealers would turn up quickly, on time, very polite. These lads were quick, they didn’t want to chit chat with you, very professional.
“They would be deployed from a location on foot, sometimes with vehicle drop-off.
“They were mingling in high end bars so they had to look the part, they were well dressed – not the typical dealer.
“1g was £100, half a gram was £50. They were selling half a gram, most cocaine users are not used to such a high quality cocaine so that was more than adequate.
“Its relatively unusual for a foreign gang in Manchester, but the world is getting smaller.
“The vast majority of the gang were of Albanian origin.
“We believe that they were recruited over in Albania and brought over to the UK, knowing that they’re coming to be drug dealers, so there’s no element of trafficking.
“Most of them are illegal immigrants in the UK as Albania is not in the EU. They were doing it as a job.
“The Albanian community are fantastic hardworking people – it’s not a reflection on them at all, but there’s an element of criminality in all strands of society.
“Here, we had an Albanian gang that landed in Manchester city centre.
“Manchester is a growing city economically, and they have seen that as a market they can get on. For the existing organised crime groups there was a benefit to working with them, because of their links to the supply and importation.
“We launched the operation in May 2014 after getting intelligence from the community, and the bars and clubs. The city centre now is a big residential area and these concerns were being raised from people within the community, residents and businesses.
“The challenge to the investigation was because these people were illegal immigrants. We didn’t know their names, their birthdays or addresses so it took a lot of investigation, a lot of time and effort into locating these people, finding out where they were living and finding out the identities they were using.
“They were using multiple identities, fake Greek and Italian documents, so we worked very closely with the UK Borders Agency.”
DC Mulhall went on: “The discovery of the gun goes to show that underlying this professional, well-manned outfit is is the threat and fear that they will, if confronted and if they don’t get what they want, use firearms and the threat of firearms to other organised crime groups.
“People might think they are friendly or nice and offer a good service, but where firearms are concerned, where drugs are concerned there is potential for conflict.
“It’s an illicit market where the control is not with trading standards, you can’t go and say my product’s not quite right, they govern themselves.
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“And in the world of drugs those who bite the hardest are the ones who decided what goes.”
DC Mulhall said while the situation with open dealing in the city centre is now vastly improved, there is no room for complacency.
“The feedback we have from the clubs and bars is very positive.
“But this is an ongoing process of work in relation to this new organised crime group. It’s something we’re working tirelessly against. But there may be a number of them.
“It doesn’t stop here, this isn’t the end of it, we keep going until the problem is totally eradicated.
“People come to Manchester to have a good time – the night time economy is massive to the city centre – they don’t come to be surrounded by people dealing drugs.”
Officers are still trying to trace three men in connection with the drug-dealing operation.
Others in the conspiracy
As well as linchpin Mevlan Gjeta , 19 others were convicted of a range of crimes.
Holly Brown , 21, of Ellesmere Street, Hulme was convicted of being concerned in the supplying class A drugs.
She was handed a two-year suspended sentence.
Ellis Rrukay , 30, of no fixed abode, was convicted of supplying class A drugs.
He was sentenced 32 months in prison.
Emir Ceka , 30, of Wellmead Close, Cheetham Hill, was convicted of supplying class A drugs; possession with intent to supply class A drugs; and money laundering – and sentenced to five years behind bars.
Thanas Troka , 38, of Bury Street, Salford, was convicted of supplying class A drugs and sentenced to three years and nine months in prison.
Vilson Jacaj , 26, of no fixed abode, was convicted of supplying class A drugs; and possession with intent to supply class A drugs – and sentenced to four years in prison.
Eric Jacaj , 30, of Barnfield House, Salford, was convicted of supplying class A drugs; possession with intent to supply class A drugs; and money laundering.
He was handed a five year sentence.
Nehat Elshani , 38, of Richmond Grove, Longsight, was convicted of supplying class A drugs; and possession with intent to supply class A drugs – and was sentenced to four years in jail.
Elton Kalemi , 24, of Chester Road, Manchester, was convicted of supplying class A drugs; possession with intent to supply class A drugs; and money laundering – and sentenced to four years.
Nailr Piri – also known as Danielo Boni, 25, of no fixed abode, was convicted of supplying class A drugs and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
Clirim Malecaj , 33, of New Bailey Street, Salford, was convicted of supplying class A drugs and possession with intent to supply class A drugs – and sentenced to six years.
Arkadiusz Jakubiec , 34, of no fixed abode, was convicted of supplying class A drugs and possession of ammunition – and sentenced to four years in jail.
Kamila Jakubiec , 30, of Dragonfly Close, Lower Broughton was convicted of possessing ammunition – and sentenced to nine months in prison.
Schembi Doci, 27, of no fixed abode, was convicted of supplying class A drugs and possession with intent to supply class A drugs – and sentenced to five-and-a-half-years in prison.
Muhamed Gazided , 21, of no fixed abode, was convicted of supplying class A drugs and possession with intent to supply class A drugs.
He was sentenced to four years.
Emiljan Cutaj, 35, of no fixed abode, was convivted of possession of cocaine with intent to supply – and was sentenced to three years behind bars.
Edvin Dervishi, 32, of Bury Street, Salford, was convicted of possession with intent to supply class A drugs; and possessing false ID – and sentenced to three years and eight months.
Hakuran Curaj , 22, of no fixed abode, was convicted of possession with intent to supply class A drugs and possessing criminal property – and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
Orion Pira , 20, of no fixed abode was convicted of posession with intent to supply class A drugs and sentenced to three years in prison.
Gentjan Baro , 27, Ludgate Hill, Collyhurst, was convicted of posesssion of a firearm and false documents – and sentenced to seven years in prison.