A man has been jailed for the import of Class A drugs in shipments of children’s toys.
Chris Michaelides, 52, of Chigwell, Essex, was caught after encrypted mobile phone messages showed him discussing an arranged importation that had been intercepted by police at the Port of Dover on 20 April 2020.
He arranged with others for a lorry carrying a cargo of children’s bricks to be loaded with 50kg of high purity cocaine for import into the UK and onward distribution.
Michaelides was sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court on Friday to 20 years' imprisonment after admitting several charges, including conspiracy to evade the prohibition on the importation of controlled drugs, conspiracy to supply a controlled drug and possession of a firearm.
The National Crime Agency and European authorities accessed and dismantled an encrypted communication system called EncroChat in 2020 as part of Operation Venetic.
Detectives from the Met Police's Specialist Crime Directorate analysed the data from the devices, which led to officers identifying Michaelides as being involved in the importation of cocaine.
Police carried out a warrant at Michaelides' address on 30 June 2020 and arrested him nearby.
Officers searched his property and found a handgun in a wardrobe in his bedroom, stored with seven rounds of ammunition.
They also found a UK passport with his photograph but issued under an assumed identity.
Throughout the house, officers found quantities of cannabis and a number of cannabis plants were found growing in his garden.
A CS gas canister, which is a prohibited firearm, was found in another bedroom.
Michaelides’ EncroChat messages showed that he was in contact with others based in the UK, Holland and the Czech Republic who were involved in the importation of Class A drugs into the UK.
Conversations indicated this had been an ongoing criminal enterprise for approximately six years.
The messages demonstrated he played a leading role in facilitating the importation of drugs hidden in the shipment of children's toys.
The same criminal network also set up a similar importation of cocaine, believed to be 37kg, on 1 June 2020.
The drugs consignment was intercepted on the continent before it could reach the UK.
Michaelides was arrested shortly afterwards and charged on 1 July 2020.
Detective Inspector Lee Byne, from Specialist Crime, said: “Michaelides played an instrumental part in this criminal network, which had been importing huge quantities of Class A drugs – hidden in innocent shipments, including children’s toys – for many years.
“The drugs he helped to import to the UK over those years no doubt devastated many lives and communities.
“The firearms and weapons we found at Michaelides house once again demonstrates the undeniable link between drugs and violence.”