International drugs ring jailed for almost 50 years after police find £1m of cocaine

Members of an international drugs ring have been jailed for almost 50 years after police in Humberside discovered £1m of cocaine.

Top left, Ilja Palionnijs, top right, Egons Semjonovs, bottom left Igor Gridin and bottom right Aleksej Sagamogas, have been jailed for almost 50 years

Two members of the gang - Ilja Palionnijs and Egons Semjonovs - had been under surveillance by police and CCTV showed them putting drug-filled bags into a car outside a hotel where they were staying in Grimsby.

The driver of the car, Igor Gridin, and passenger Aleksej Sagamogas were then stopped shortly afterwards and the men - who are all from Latvia - were arrested and charged with possession with intent to supply drugs.

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Police found a rucksack in the car - a BMW - with packaging materials and receipts which showed how many kilos had been transported across the world. The receipts included information for two parcels which had been intercepted in America and found to contain drugs.

Text messages from ringleader Palionnijs' phone showed he was directing the trade of drugs across continents. He and Semjonovs had flown from Riga to London and then collected the drugs.

They had travelled to Grimsby separately to Gridin and Sagamogas, who then drove from London to meet them the next day for the exchange. CCTV evidence discovered after the arrests showed Gridin and Sagamogas had previously been involved in the distribution of drug packages.

The men were jailed at Great Grimsby Crown Court on September 8. Palionnijs, 31, was jailed for 14 years and four months, while Semjonovs, 29, was jailed for 10 years and six months.

Gridin, 36, was jailed for 12 years and three months and Sagamogas, 31, was jailed for 10 years and six months.

The large police operation involved Humberside Police, who stopped the men and found the drugs in Grimsby, as well as National Crime Agency, Europol, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Latvian Organised Crime Division. It was led by West Midlands Police.

Detective Inspector Dave Hollies, from West Midlands ROCU, said: "This was a significant drugs ring and the global pandemic was no deterrent in their carefully-laid plans to import and export across continents.

"It was due to the combined efforts of police forces, and other law enforcement agencies across the world, we were able to pinpoint and bring this network down.

"We've not only taken a haul of drugs out of circulation but stopped this gang from trading. Drugs can not only cost lives, but lead to further crime, and there will be no let-up in our work to tackle those involved in the illegal supply of them."