AN Albanian drugs lord who headed up a multi-million pound country-wide cocaine racket has been jailed for 25 years.

Erald Mema, of Nursery Close, Botley, took a 'leading role' in flooding Oxfordshire and beyond with class A drugs as part of a cocaine conspiracy between June 1, 2016, and December 2, 2016.

Oxford Mail:

The 33-year old had denied any involvement in the drugs ring but a jury took nine hours and 12 minutes to find him guilty by a majority to two counts of conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Sentencing, Judge Peter Ross, who presided over the two-month trial, said that Mema had run a 'sophisticated and organised' gang.

Oxford Mail:

The drugs cash seized from associate Khalad Uddin's apartment

He said: "The organisation that you headed supplied millions of pounds worth of cocaine around the UK.

"It was an organisation run on business lines.

"There were those who had responsibility for communications, there were couriers, there were agents. Vehicles had been adapted to continue secret importation.

"You are a rarity, you are the top man when it comes to this organised crime operation.

"No one reading the newspapers, watching the television news can be in any doubt criminal enterprises such as yours generate violence, serious violence, involving the use of guns and knives."

During the trial which began in August, jurors saw surveillance footage of the drugs gang conducting various secret meetings around Oxfordshire and the West Midlands.

Oxford Mail:

Many of its members, which included Khalad Uddin and Elsid Kopani both of whom have already been jailed for their part, made phone calls to and from what was termed 'conspiracy phones', ultimately belonging to Mema.

Prosecutor Amjad Malik told jurors how police investigators had traced many of the telephone calls using 'cell site data' which were made between the gang of men to and from Oxfordshire and Albania.

A meeting held at Starbucks coffee shop in Summertown was also detailed to the court in which Mema - who was codenamed 'subject 5' was seen leaving the store with Uddin - who was codenamed 'subject 1'.

The court also heard how when one of the co-conspirators - Mema's subordinate Khalad Uddin was arrested in October officers found hundreds of thousands of pounds of cash at his Scholars Mews apartment as well as at Little Brewery Street in Oxford.

Oxford Mail:

Gun found in Uddin's car

Mema had claimed that he had no involvement in the drugs gang and took to the witness box to profess his innocence but the jury convicted him regardless on Thursday before he was sentenced yesterday.

In mitigation at the hearing defence barrister Graeme Logan urged the court for leniency in light of Mema's lack of any previous convictions and pointed to the 'devastating impact' any jail term would have on his partner and young child.

He also said that Mema had not had any 'ill intentions' when he first arrived in the country in 2003 in order to study before he later fell into the drugs plot.

After jailing Mema for 25 years Judge Peter Ross also gave commendations to three officers involved in the case and thanked the jury panel for their commitment and dedication.

Mema will also be subject to a proceeds of crime hearing to recover his ill-gotten gains.