A former professional boxer, who was managed by leading boxing promoter Frank Warren, was today sentenced for 13 years for supplying cocaine as part of a sophisticated drug smuggling ring.
The 31-year-old, formerly of Linchfield Road, Datchet, was part of a group of four men who were part of an organised international drug and ammunition smuggling operation that were sentenced to a total of 77 years at Southwark Crown Court.
Savdeep Atkar, 33, of Essex, was sentenced to 21 years for importing cocaine.
David Brown, 51, of Biggleswade, was sentenced to 13 years for supplying cocaine.
Harvinder Sanghera, 33, of Hounslow, was sentenced to a total of 30 years (importing cocaine 25 years and importing ammunition five years to run consecutively).
O’Meara, a former footballer and model, has won 14 of his 17 pro bouts and was living in Marbella before his arrest.
The father-of-two had previously had a shot at the Commonwealth title and had sparred with world champs Carl Froch and Floyd Mayweather,
Met officers carried out a covert investigation into the activities of a sophisticated cocaine supply network that stretched from Mexico, the USA, and Canada to the streets of London.
This conspiracy, involved organised drug distributers based in Mexico City using British Airways transatlantic flights and a sophisticated team of distributors in London.
In total, police intercepted 40 kilos of cocaine with purity levels of over 90 per cent with a street level value of £11 million, together with 100 rounds of 9mm ammunition.
This far-reaching police operation involved Surrey Constabulary, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and US Homeland Security.
Following 13 months of covert surveillance, Met officers were able to track consignments of cocaine from Mexico to London Heathrow and beyond.
Officers observed important flight cargo information being handed over to high level criminals based in the London criminal network who used this information to import large quantities of the drug through British Airways World Cargo at London Heathrow Airport.
The drugs and ammunition were concealed in legitimate cargo containers within the hold of domestic flights bound for the UK.
In early 2012 key people in the conspiracy were seen to meet with members of a distribution network in Surrey, before they followed a consignment of 21 kilos of cocaine and 100 rounds of ammunition from the cargo sheds at Heathrow to a house in Surrey where seven men were arrested and later convicted of possession with intent to supply cocaine at Guildford Crown Court. The covert operation continued and senior members of the network based in London were later followed to Vancouver, Canada travelling first class on British Airways flights.
With the co-operation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), surveillance observations were made of network head Harvinder Sanghera prior to his onward travel to Los Angeles where he was placed under observation by agents from Homeland Security. Here Sanghera was seen having clandestine meetings with unknown men believed to be linked to the drugs trade. Traces of cocaine were recovered from hotel rooms where these meetings took place. These meetings are believed to have been held to place orders for importation of drugs.
In London, surveillance showed the involvement of the another network head, Savdeep Atkar, meeting with other criminals concerned in the importation and onward distribution of the cocaine once it had landed in London. Atkar was observed meeting with professional boxer Stephen O’Meara in Loughton, Essex on a number of occasions to discuss the importations.
O’Meara was concerned in the importation and distribution of the drugs and organising in August 2013 the collection of a consignment of 19 kilos of the drug. This was later intercepted by police following a handover near Heathrow Airport.
O’Meara was detained on a plane after returning on a flight from Spain on 23 October 2013. He pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to conspiracy to import cocaine and conspiracy to supply cocaine.
David Brown was an associate of Sanghera closely involved in the running of the importations on behalf of Sanghera. He was seen to meet with couriers and distributors of the London end of the network. He pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to conspiracy to supply cocaine.
During the investigation police were able to obtain covert recordings of the two network heads, Sanghera and Atkar, discussing the loss of millions of pounds worth of cocaine when the investigation team intercepted a consignment, providing damning evidence against the men.
In the face of overwhelming evidence, Harvinder Sanghera and Savdeep Atkar pleaded guilty to the charges against them at Southwark Crown Court in February 2014.
Senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Andy Whitewood said: “This was a sophisticated, well-organised and determined criminal network. The man at the upper end of the organisation, Harvinder Sanghera and his lieutenant, Savdeep Atkar, were obviously capable of masterminding and resourcing this complicated international smuggling operation and sustaining it over a long period.
“Sanghera and his network were unfortunate enough to come to the notice of a team specifically established to take on and bring to justice organised criminal enterprises such as his.
“The evidence shows that this unit has disrupted and dismantled what was a well-oiled, large scale operation and we will now seek to strip him and his co-conspirators of their extensive criminal proceeds.”
A number of defendants arrested and charged during this police operation were later acquitted:
Sukhminder Sidhu, 45, Slough, was acquitted of conspiracy to import cocaine at Southwark Crown Court on 15 December.
Ashley Anderson, 36, West Drayton, was acquitted of conspiracy to supply cocaine at Southwark Court on 15 December.
Gurvinder Kabli, 38, of Slough, was acquitted of conspiracy to import cocaine Southwark Crown Court in May.
Mark Servante, 51, of Staines-upon-Thames, was acquitted of conspiracy to fraudulently evade the prohibition on the importation of a quantity of ammunition and conspiracy to import cocaine at Southwark Crown Court in May.
Edward Skilbeck, 66, of Enfield, was acquitted at Southwark Crown Court in May of conspiracy to supply cocaine.