Gang who used ‘Thank you NHS van’ to transport 100kg drugs during pandemic jailed for almost 100 years
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A gang who used a ‘Thank You NHS’ van to ferry drugs and fund their criminal empire with Government-backed Covid loans have been jailed for almost 100 years. The ten criminals raked in £1.5million by flooding one area of the UK with more than 100kg of cocaine and heroin at the height of the pandemic.
One member of the gang, which was based in the West Midlands even used a van with the message ‘Thank You NHS’ emblazoned on the side to avoid detection. Two members of the gang also applied for and received Government-back ‘Covid Bounce Back’ loans which they invested into their drugs empire.
They were caught following a police investigation which saw their secret EnchroChat messages seized which revealed the drugs ring.
The men who ran their operation from West Bromwich, West Midlands, admitted drug offences including conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. They were jailed for a combined total of just under 100 years at Leicester Crown Court on Thursday (June 22).
Kamaljit Singh Chahal, 52, was jailed for 18 years while Bhipon Chahal, 25, was sentenced to 14 years and Matthias Tulloch, 43, for 12 years. Sandeep Johal, 32, and Miquel Lewin-Miller, 41, were both jailed for 11 years. Aaron Williams, 43, was sentenced to 10-and-a-half years and Robert Wesley, 39, was jailed for nine years.
Alan Moore-Caswell, 42, was jailed for four years two months while Sandeep Singh, 25, Hitesh Salhotra, 26, were both sentenced to three years nine months.
Gang leader Kamaljit Singh Chahal, of Sutton Coldfield, ran the operation with his nephew Bhipon Chahal, of Great Barr. They used a network of couriers, including Miller and Tulloch, by communicating using encrypted devices.
The West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) stopped the gang in their tracks following a covert investigation into the group under the name Op Igneous.
EncroChat messages from the Chahal crime group were seized between March 26 and June 5, 2020. The messages revealed the Chahal crime group openly discussed the management and delivery of drugs across the UK.
To avoid detection, Tulloch used the NHS van to avoid suspicion while transporting the drugs during the pandemic. Investigators also identified that Kamaljit Chahal and Wesley were given Government backed ‘Covid loans’ which they used to fund their drugs ring.
Chief Inspector Peter Cooke, from ROCU, said: “This was a significant Class A drugs operation which was being operated during the Covid pandemic.
“This is part of our ongoing work to destroy drug networks across the West Midlands and this will carry on as part of Op Target.
“We’re focused on those thought to be involved in the highest levels of organised crime across our region.
“These men will now be spending nearly 100 years behind bars in total.
"It sends out a clear warning to others intent on supplying Class A drugs – we simply won’t tolerate it.”