An Albanian drug dealer who supplied more than £1million of cocaine in just four months has been jailed after a Right Move advert exposed the location of his illicit business.
National Crime Agency investigators identified that Xhuljan Shehu had used the encrypted communications platform EncroChat to deal the class A drug.
The 30-year-old oversaw cocaine importations and distribution in the UK, and arranged for drugs to be sold in the Belgian cities of Anvers and Brussels. Proceeds were then laundered to Albania and the Netherlands.
Shehu supplied 30 kilos of cocaine with a street value of £1.05 million between 23 March and 2 June 2020, which he orchestrated from a flat in Whittington Way, Pinner, north west London, under the EncroChat handle ‘Maidenram’.
He also discussed using his ill-gotten gains to buy property in Albania worth £2 million.
NCA officers arrested Shehu at an address in High Street, Uxbridge, on 24 November 2021.
Further investigations showed he had used a fraudulent Greek passport to secure the tenancy on the Pinner flat, in an attempt to disguise his drug dealing identity. A bank card in the same name was found in his wallet.
When interviewed, Shehu denied owning an Encro phone or having any involvement in drug dealing, instead claiming that he worked in construction and was studying part-time for a degree. He claimed to have no knowledge of the Pinner flat and said he only lived in Uxbridge.
This was disproved by NCA investigators who found a photo on his phone of an Albanian-language TV programme taken inside the Pinner flat, supporting the case it was occupied by an Albanian speaker. The phone also contained other photos of drugs and cash taken inside the same flat.
Property fixtures and fittings from the photos were matched with a Right Move rental advert for the flat.
NCA officers trawled through 20,902 messages on Shehu’s Encro phone. These showed that he’d had conversations with other handles and sent instructions about checking drug quality and deals.
Shehu also delivered some of the drugs in person and helped to count cash profits. The terms “loaf, pieces and bread” are mentioned 204, 47 and 23 times respectively in the messages, which demonstrates knowledge of the language used for drug trafficking and money laundering.
Shehu was charged with conspiracy to import cocaine and pleaded guilty at Isleworth Crown Court on 22 March last year. He was sentenced to 11 years and three months at the same court today (29 September).
The NCA’s investigation formed part of Operation Venetic, the UK law enforcement response to the July 2020 takedown of the EncroChat encrypted communication service.
NCA Branch Commander Matt McMillan said: “There is no doubt that Xhuljan Shehu was involved in every stage of the drug supply chain.
“The crucial evidence my officers painstakingly gathered from his phone was indisputable, and the only option left open to him was to plead guilty.
“The class A drugs trade is inextricably linked to gang violence and real suffering across the UK.
“The NCA works with partners at home and abroad to combat drug trafficking, and we’ll continue to stop people like Xhuljan Shehu in their tracks.”
29 September 2023