"This is part of our ongoing work to destroy drug networks"
A gang have been jailed for a total of nearly 100 years after they funded their £1.5 million heroin and cocaine empire with government-backed Covid loans.
The 10 members raked in the money by flooding the West Midlands with over 100 kilograms of cocaine and heroin at the height of the pandemic.
One member of the gang even used a van with the message ‘Thank You NHS’ emblazoned on the side to avoid detection.
Two members also received a ‘Covid Bounce Back’ loan which they invested into their drugs empire.
The drugs ring was exposed after a police investigation saw their EncroChat messages seized.
The men ran their operation from West Bromwich, admitting various drug offences, including conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
Kamaljit Singh Chahal, aged 52, was jailed for 18 years.
Bhipon Chahal, aged 25, was jailed for 14 years.
Matthias Tulloch, aged 43, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Sandeep Johal, aged 32, and Miquel Lewin-Miller, aged 41, were both jailed for 11 years.
Aaron Williams, aged 43 was sentenced to 10-and-a-half years.
Robert Wesley, aged 39, was jailed for nine years.
Alan Moore-Caswell, aged 42, was jailed for four years and two months.
Sandeep Singh, aged 25, and Hitesh Salhotra, aged 26, were both sentenced to three years and nine months.
Gang leader Kamaljit Singh Chahal ran the operation with his nephew Bhipon Chahal.
They used a network of couriers, including Miller and Tulloch, by communicating using encrypted devices.
The West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) stopped the gang following a covert investigation into the group under the name Op Igneous.
EncroChat messages were seized between March 26 and June 5, 2020.
Messages revealed that the gang discussed the management and delivery of drugs across the UK.
To avoid being detected, Tulloch used the NHS van to transport drugs during the pandemic.
Investigators also identified that Kamaljit Chahal and Wesley were given Government backed ‘Covid loans’ which they used to fund their drugs ring.
Chief Inspector Peter Cooke, of ROCU, said:
“This was a significant Class A drugs operation which was being operated during the Covid pandemic.”
“This is part of our ongoing work to destroy drug networks across the West Midlands and this will carry on as part of Op Target.
“We’re focused on those thought to be involved in the highest levels of organised crime across our region.
“These men will now be spending nearly 100 years behind bars in total.
“It sends out a clear warning to others intent on supplying Class A drugs – we simply won’t tolerate it.”