A national drugs courier caught with £840,000-worth of cocaine at the M1 services near Northampton was jailed for seven-and-a-half years today (Friday, August 6).
Adil Bakali was stopped by police on a trip from Essex to Manchester in November, who found 21kg of the class A drug in the 33-year-old's hired van.
The Wiltshire father was seen transferring cocaine in Grays, Essex, four times that month with fellow conspirator Lee Twigg, who was also jailed for nine-and-a-half years at Northampton Crown Court.
His Honour Judge David Herbert told them: "These are very serious matters and I'm sure you well know the courts always treat the supply of drugs, especially multi-kilogram amounts, very seriously."
Andrew Peet, prosecuting, said Bakali, of Neston Gardens, Hawthorn, would transport significant quantities of drugs across the country but was only seen completing transactions in Grays with Twigg, 35.
The defendant and Twigg, 35, of Saints Walk, Grays, briefly met at a cemetery near the latter's home to swap cocaine on November 10, 13, 27 and 28.
On the first occasion, Bakali went from west London at 5am to Wolverhampton and Cheshire in a Toyota car before reaching to Grays shortly before 1pm to meet his co-defendant.
Twigg brought a distinctive orange holdall which he filled with the drugs given to him by Bakali, which he had in bin liners, before both left.
Three days later, Bakali arrived in the hired Ford van he was later caught in to meet Twigg before using a hired Renault Clio on November 27.
Strangely on November 28, it seemed like Twigg had given Bakali the drugs this time which turned out to be because they were not high-enough quality for his clientele.
Bakali had arrived in the Toyota again but he swapped it for the Ford van at a nearby industrial estate before leaving the town.
On the way to the Manchester area from Grays, Bakali stopped for fuel at junction 15a of the M1, where he was arrested and police found the drugs in bags and a Weetabix box - 10kg of which had been given to him by Twigg.
The other 11kg of compressed cocaine in 1kg packages was tested to be between 91 and 93 per cent purity, meaning it had probably just been imported.
Police then found the Toyota car in Grays which had a hydraulically-controlled compartment beneath the back seats.
Twigg was not arrested until April when police raided his home, where they found 3kg of cocaine in the garage, a secret stash under the shed floor containing the holdall with 513g of cocaine inside and a cannabis grow in the loft worth £14,500.
Mr Peet said: "Mr Twigg was supplying Mr Bakali so that Mr Bakali could supply it elsewhere in the country.
"It matters little as both were involved to a significant degree, they were both playing their part. We accepted Mr Bakali's role was as a courier but he's a professional courier.
"Given his previous convictions and how he behaved on four occasions and given the amount of drugs he was transporting, the conspiracy was relying on him for the safe passage of the high quality cocaine he was transporting, not in a small area but across the country."
Bakali was charged with possession with intent to supply cocaine and pleaded not guilty before Twigg was arrested and both were charged with conspiracy to supply cocaince, which they both admitted.
Henry James, defending Bakali, said his client had his new painting and decorating business and his partner's new hairdressing business were both ruined by the coronavirus pandemic.
That caused him to borrow money 'from those it would be unwise to borrow money from' and he was also defrauded out of a tax rebate, leading to working for the drug gang.
Mr James said the father-of-one was given everything he needed to courier drugs around the country - the judge said he 'jumped in at the deep end'.
"He's a dependable person who found himself in a difficult situation where it's difficult to refuse those requiring him to do this.
"It was a Hail Mary as he tried to keep his small family afloat but this has failed, it was a huge mistake and he knows he's going to get a long sentence."
Michael Stradling, defending Twigg, said the defendant's job was also affected by Covid, causing him to go into debt and 'chose the wrong route out of it' to support his wife and children.
Judge Herbert told Twigg: "You played in my view a significant role. On the evidence, you performed at the very least a management function for this group you were working for.
"You had an expectation of significant financial advantage for your work for them and you had clear awareness and understanding of the operation you were involved in."
Twigg was also sentenced to two 30-month jail terms to be served concurrently to his nine-and-a-half year term for possessing cocaine with intent to supply and producing cannabis.
The judge said to Bakali: "You also played a significant role, I accept that aspect of your basis of plea that you were acting as a courier or transporter of drugs but it was in a sophisticated way and on several times you did it.
"You are more than a simple courier, you had full awareness of the operation you became involved in and had an expectation of financial gain or some other advantage."