Two men who acted as “controllers” for a major network of street-level cocaine dealers across London will spend a combined total of 16 years behind bars following an investigation by detectives from City of London Police.
While not involved in physically supplying or dealing themselves, Ardit Dushaj and Ariston Marku admitted their roles in organising others involved in the supply of class A drugs in the Capital. Dushaj, 30, of Holden Close, Dagenham, was sentenced to 10 years in prison when he appeared at Southwark Crown Court on 16 February. Accomplice Marku, 23, of Benares Road, Plumstead, received a six-year stretch.
The court heard how, over several months, detectives were able to piece together evidence of a comprehensive network of street dealers – mainly Albanian men who entered the country illegally – under the pair’s command. The gang’s operations were first exposed when a dealer, Illr Dushaj, was busted by officers in November 2015.
Before he was jailed in early 2016 for 40 months on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to supply, an examination of his mobile showed extensive communication with another phone at the time of his arrest. Detectives believed the man at the other end of the line to be Illr’s controller desperately trying to get hold of him.
This led to an investigation to uncover who was pulling the strings behind the scenes. Eight months later on 28 July 2016, Ardit Dushaj was arrested by City of London officers after being stopped while driving a Renault Laguna in Roding Lane South, Ilford, Essex.
He provided a fake name and address, while his brother Merlind, also in the car, gave an address in the Norfolk region. A document in the car led officers to their actual house in Dagenham where police uncovered cocaine, cash, and extensive drugs paraphernalia – including hand-written ledgers, in Albanian, with categories for profit, supply, expenses, driver and more.
Rewinding to February 2016, an Albanian driver was also stopped by City Police officers following a cocaine deal in Rawstone Street EC1. A fake ID document found in the vehicle bore the passport photo of Ardit Dushaj – alongside a fake name. Phone numbers contacted by the dealer and his customer matched numbers in Ardit’s possession when he was later arrested in July.
On 30 June, another man was stopped by police in similar circumstances, driving a car previously used by Ardit Dushaj. The Albanian driver was arrested for possession with intent to supply after originally claiming to be Lithuanian. In his phone, Ardit’s number was listed alongside a photograph. The message history between the man and Ardit also detailed discussions about deals, with Ardit nicknaming his friend “Animal”.
Marku, meanwhile, first came to attention when he was arrested by Metropolitan Police on 21 June 2016 for gaining illegal entry into the UK. A subsequent search of his car uncovered nine wraps of cocaine. He was later arrested in a coffee shop in South London on 10 August 2016.
When Ardit Dushaj was arrested in July the same year, he initially provided a false address to police. This residence was the same fake address linked to Marku. Detective Constable Sally Prinsloo, from the City of London Police major crime team, said that Ardit Dushaj and Marku used a method of drugs distribution similar to a taxi-booking system, allowing a ‘customer’ to ring a number to arrange a purchase, while they acted as the co-ordinators, recording the venue and directing drivers to the location.
“They thought that this approach would protect them and their associates from being caught, while they profited from this conspiracy to supply drugs across London and beyond,” she added. “The investigation into the activities of those involved demonstrates that no matter how sophisticated drug dealers think they are, the City of London Police is able to use its investigative expertise to link them to these crimes.
“This case highlights a very worrying trend we have observed in the City and across the Capital, with people, in this case Albanian males, who have entered the UK illegally, being employed to courier drugs to customers, and using fake IDs to attempt to avoid arrest.”