A rapper called ‘Big Keyz’ was working with a charity project helping lift youngsters out of a life of crime – while also moonlighting as a drug dealer in Oxford.

Akil Finlayson, 32, who as a member of north London grime collective Ice City Boyz featured in glitzy YouTube music videos, was jailed for eight years at Oxford Crown Court on Friday for his part in the ‘Hollywood’ drugs line.

The ‘third strike’ dealer fled from police officers when they caught him in a drugs den in Emperor Gardens, Greater Leys, on November 11. He hurdled a back gate, scattering wraps of heroin and crack cocaine as he ran.

Finlayson told jurors earlier this month that he’d been at the Oxford terraced house to return a phone to the householder – a friend of his partner’s – and to use the loo. He claimed he’d driven to Oxford from London with his partner and her child in order to go to the cinema.

Prosecutors said he was, in fact, in the university city to resupply the Hollywood line with drugs. The line followed the well-worn path of sending bulk advertising texts to would-be clients, including one that boasted of selling ‘bigger and better’ drugs than its competitors.


Yannis Young, Mohamed Faqi and Akil Finlayson Pictures: TVP

Yannis Young, Mohamed Faqi and Akil Finlayson Pictures: TVP


Mitigating on his client’s behalf, Oliver Doherty said his client had worked with charity United Borders – speaking to youngsters at risk of a life of crime about his experiences of dealing drugs. “He was assisting other young men not to take the path that he had done,” the barrister said.

He was also said to have volunteered with Bus Down Bars, a double-decker bus kitted out as a music studio and aimed at encouraging young men away from crime.

Mr Doherty said: “It is meant to keep them away from criminality. For him it hasn’t worked and he has been drawn back into criminality for whatever reason.

“We rely on his charity work and his attempts at legitimate work [as a rapper and music promoter] to demonstrate he is somebody who has at least tried to move himself away from this path.”

Yannis Young, 36, who was caught in the Emperor Gardens drugs house when police raided in November 2019 was given five years and four months’ imprisonment.

Judge Michael Gledhill QC ordered that the jail sentence would be served after a six year term imposed at Bournemouth Crown Court in 2020 for robbing a Dorset bookies at gunpoint.

Drugs line runner Mohamed Faqi, 30, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison. He’d been caught by plainclothes police in St Mary’s churchyard, Cowley Road, on November 11, 2019, with the Hollywood drugs line phone. Discarded in a compost heap nearby, officers found a lump of class A drugs.

Finlayson, of Helperby Road, Harlesden, and Faqi, of Fishers Way, Wembley, were found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A drugs earlier this month. Young, formerly of Guys Marsh prison, Shaftesbury, pleaded guilty to the charges last year.

Following the sentencing, PC Chris Kidd of St Aldates police station said: “This investigation has had a substantial impact on the operations of a gang from the London area, who set up base in Oxford in order to conduct and run a county drugs line business.

“The effect of drug dealing is plain to see in most town and cities and these gang members exploit vulnerable drug users in order to make money and for self-greed.

“We will not tolerate those who seek to carry out this damaging and harmful activity.”

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