Ringleader of drug empire caught at airport with Class A drugs

A gang ringleader who ran cannabis factories in the West Midlands and stashed a handgun in the boot of his car has been jailed for 15 years.

Lulzim Koka has been locked up for 15 years
Lulzim Koka has been locked up for 15 years

Lulzim Koka, 29 and from Luton, had set up cannabis farms in Smethwick and Staffordshire growing crops thought to have been worth up to £500,000.

He is one of five members of an organised crime group, including two based in Smethwick, sentenced to a total of more than 32 years in prison at a hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Thursday.

A sixth member of the gang is yet to be sentenced.

The group was busted by a specialist police unit dedicated to tackling serious organised crime in the east of England.

The investigation began when Koka was arrested trying to leave the country while in possession of Class A drugs in December 2019.

Two farms in Smethwick, including one with more than 300 plants, and one in Newcastle-Under-Lyme were then discovered in the next three months.

And in March a building was raided in Colin Road, Luton which it's believe the group were in the process of converting into a cannabis factory.

A gun and 97 rounds of ammunition was found

It was at this property that a handgun, along with 97 rounds of live ammunition, were found in a car which belonged to Koka.

Suspects were found at each of the cannabis farms and in the following weeks other members of the gang were arrested at Gatwick Airport, Cardiff and Germany.

Koka, 29 and of Dumfries Street, Luton, went on to admit conspiracy to produce cannabis and was found guilty of possessing the gun and supplying Class A drugs.

Fellow gang member Blerin Bajcinca, 32, of Abbots Park, St Albans, was jailed for nine years and 10 months after admitting cannabis production and being found guilty of possessing a gun and ammunition.

He was also convicted of possessing of fake ID documents with intent to deceive.

The other members of the group charged in relation to the operation were:

  • Eddison Koceku, 29, of Castle Street, Smethwick, jailed for two years and three months after being found guilty of conspiracy to produce cannabis.

  • Edmir Tafa, 25, of Halfords Lane, Smethwick, jailed for two years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to produce cannabis.

  • Sertzio Tsekrezi, 25, also of Abbots Park, St Albans, jailed for three years and four months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to produce cannabis.

  • Elvis Lushi, 33, of London Road, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce cannabis, and is to be sentenced at a later date.

All of the men apart from Koceku will be deported once they have completed their sentence.

Detective Inspector Dave Skarratts, from ERSOU, said: “This was a highly organised operation that saw cannabis being produced on a mass scale.

“They were clearly prepared to resort to significant violence if needed to protect their drugs empire, shown by the dangerous handgun recovered from Koka’s car, along with a large quantity of live ammunition.

“Koka’s crimes were compounded further when he attempted to evade the consequences of his actions by fleeing the country – but our efforts have ensured he will only be getting a one way ticket to prison.

“Drugs are very much the driving factor behind a lot of the violence and exploitation within our local communities, and underpin a wide range of criminality.

“Thanks to the hard work of our officers, along with support from our colleagues in other police forces and overseas, we have shown that you cannot outrun justice and these dangerous individuals will now be locked away where they can cause no further harm.”

Timeline of key events

  • 11 December 2019: Koka arrested and bailed after trying to leave the country in possession of Class A drugs.

  • 23 January 2020: 329 cannabis plants found in Trinder Road, Smethwick.

  • 27 February 2020: Staffordshire Police carried out a warrant at a property in London Road, Chesterton, Newcastle-Upon-Lyme where 42 plants were found. Elvis Lushi arrested.

  • 6 March 2020: Lulzim Koka flees the UK to Europe.

  • 12 March 2020: Warrant carried out at a cannabis factory in Halfords Lane, Smethwick, in which 69 cannabis plants were discovered. Edmir Tafa arrested.

  • 12 March 2020: Gun and ammunition found in a car belonging to Koka outside a property in Colin Road, Luton following a police warrant.

  • 12 March 2020: Blerin Bajcinca arrested after a warrant was executed a property in Abbots Park, St Albans.

  • 19 March 2020: Eddison Koceku arrested at Gatwick Airport.

  • 11 May 2020: Sertzio Tsekrezi arrested in Cardiff.

  • 22 October 2020: Lulzim Koka extradited to the UK after being arrested trying to get from Germany to Hungary.

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