Cocaine dealing trio who brought ‘untold misery to the streets of Luton’ jailed
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Three drug dealers involved in a £3 million drugs conspiracy ferrying wholesale amounts of cocaine between Luton and London have been jailed.
The trio are the latest to be brought to justice by Bedfordshire Police’s Operation Costello team, which is dedicated to apprehending offenders linked to the criminal communications tool Encrochat.
Luton drug dealers Schahjahan Ali, 30, of Radnor Road, and Mohammed Foyas Ali, 37, of Ivy Road, along with Londoner Hussein Elbahja, 31, of Lysander House, Temple Street, were jailed on Friday (4 February) for a combined 23 years.
The group were arrested in August 2021 while attempting to exchange a kilogramme of cocaine – with a street value of £100,000 – during a meeting on a Luton street.
Officers arrested the group as the exchange was taking place, seizing the drugs along with £16,000 in cash. A subsequent search of Mohammed Foyas Ali’s address found a further three kilogrammes of high purity cocaine with a potential street value of £400,000.
The trio were unaware that an investigation into their drug dealing activities had already been launched, after they had been linked to user handles on the Encrochat system.
After the system’s servers were seized by law enforcement in Spring 2020, investigators had access to hundreds of thousands of messages between criminals who were under the impression they were communicating securely.
Conversations involving two handles attributed to Schahjahan Ali contained more than 2,000 messages relating to wholescale cocaine supply and more than 30 images of kilogramme blocks of cocaine.
At sentencing, the Judge agreed that he had bought and sold more than 32 kilogrammes of cocaine between March and June 2020, worth a potential street value of around £3 million.
More conversations indicated Schahjahan Ali had a debt of £355,000 to another user who supplied him drugs, while others suggested he was communicating with the brother of Mohammed Foyas Ali, who was at the time serving a prison sentence for cocaine supply.
Schahjahan Ali was today jailed for 13 years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and possession with intent to supply cocaine. The Judge commented that he had brought ‘untold misery to the streets of Luton, and beyond’.
Mohammed Foyas Ali was sentenced to five-and-a-half years’ imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and possession with intent to supply cocaine.
And Hussein Elbahja was jailed for four years and nine months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and possession with intent to supply cocaine.
Operation Costello, Bedfordshire Police’s biggest ever operation into serious and organised crime, has now led to 17 subjects being jailed for 100 years, as investigators continue to target prominent criminals who used the Encrochat tool to hide their illicit activity.
Investigation Officer Gary Hales, from Operation Costello, said: “These men have no place in society and aren’t welcome in our communities, and I’m delighted they have been given significant jail terms. They paid no regard to the harm they were doing by bringing class A drugs into Bedfordshire, nor the associated damage that drug-related crime has in terms of public health and wider criminality.
“Drugs are a scourge on our society and fuel much of the violence and exploitation that we see, including stabbings, assaults by competing gangs, and acquisitive crime committed by addicts such as burglary and robbery. That’s why it’s so important we target key individuals such as these and bring them to justice.
“This was a wide-ranging investigation involving significant resources both here in Bedfordshire and in London. I’d like to thank everyone involved, including colleagues in the Metropolitan Police, for their efforts in ensuring these dangerous men were apprehended.”
Anyone with information about drug dealing, county lines or child criminal exploitation can contact Bedfordshire Police on 101 or via the force’s online reporting centre.
All of these reports are fed into police intelligence systems and can help officers build up a better picture of organised crime.
You can also report information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.