Drug kingpins who idolised the Kray twins jailed after huge cocaine bust

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  • March 9, 2023
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A pair of drug kingpins who wanted to emulate the notorious Kray twins have been jailed after being caught with more than 200 kilos of cocaine.

The haul had a street value of around £16million.

Robert Smith, 37, and Ismet Salih, 33, branded themselves the ‘Chadwell Cartel’ and dreamed of becoming gangsters.

They looked up to the likes of Ronnie and Reggie Kray who dominated the East End underworld during the 1960s.

A probe into Smith and Salih unearthed around 80kg of cocaine being supplied through their network, before they were linked to another 123kg seized from other dealers.

One member of the crew was picked up with 20kg of coke, worth around £1.6m on the street – meaning the 203kg linked to the gang could have made as much as £16m.

Smith headed the gang that supplied coke and cannabis to the Chadwell St Mary and Grays areas of Essex and used Salih plus associate, Lee Twigg, as his trusted seconds in command.

In encrypted messages, Smith used the handle ‘demonfern’ to source the class A drugs from a seller based in Dubai, who went by ‘blacknarco’ and ‘darkestnarco’.

Twigg and Salih collected the cocaine from Smith’s suppliers in the UK, then stored and distributed the drugs for him – making sure cash from the sales made it back to the suppliers.

They exchanged more than 6,000 messages, mostly about the sale of cocaine, police said.

Smith and Salih called themselves the ‘Chadwell Cartel’ in chat messages with other crooks and revealed their aspirations of becoming gangsters like the infamous Ronnie and Reggie Kray.

The pair were arrested in September 2021, with investigators finding three kilos of cannabis with a wholesale value of up to £15,760 in Salih’s garden shed and evidence cannabis had been grown in his loft before the raid.

When he was arrested, Smith had £7,635 in cash in a plastic bag stuffed in his shorts, Britain’s FBI – the National Crime Agency (NCA) – said.

At Basildon Crown Court on Wednesday, Smith was jailed for 16-and-a-half years, while Salih was handed a nine-year prison sentence.

Andrew Tickner, from the NCA and Met Police’s Organised Crime Partnership, said after the sentencing of Smith and Salih: ‘Robert Smith and Ismet Salih were behind a criminal network which saw vast amounts of cocaine sold in Essex and beyond.

‘Their dream of becoming gangsters like the Kray twins was swiftly shattered by our investigation. Instead, their reality is lengthy prison sentences.

‘Using the strong partnership between the NCA and Met Police, we will continue to pursue organised criminals fuelling the class A drug trade.’

Investigators discovered that Essex pair Andrew Fraser, 59, of Harlow, Christopher Low, 48, of Chipping Ongar, plus Jamie Sheaves, 32, from Dartford, Kent, and Adil Bakali, 34, from Corsham, Wiltshire, were all working as runners for Smith’s Dubai supplier.

All four were jailed for a total of 39 years at various courts between March 2020 and May last year.

Fraser was stopped driving a van on the M25 Dartford Crossing in Kent with two bags containing 20kg of cocaine with a street value of £1.6 million in the back.

He would have given the haul of narcotics to Salih had he not been arrested, according to the NCA.

The following month, officers saw Twigg put a black holdall into Bakali’s car, which was later stopped by police at the M1 Northampton Services.

More than 21kg of cocaine – with a street value of almost £1.7 million – was found in bags in the back of the car.

Cops found another 3.5kg of cocaine in Twigg’s garage and hidden underground in his garden shed in Grays, Essex, as well as a cannabis farm in his loft.

The cocaine seized at Twigg’s home had been supplied by Sheaves, who also handed drugs to Salih and was also in contact with the same dealer in Dubai.

Low was jailed after 40kg of coke – worth some £3.2m – was discovered in the boot of a black Jaguar XF in Brentford, west London.

He was also found to have dealt Kevin Malthouse 5kg of cocaine, according to the NCA.

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