News Local Cypriot who ran UK drug ring jailed for eight years

Cypriot who ran UK drug ring jailed for eight years

A Cypriot and his mother who were part of an organised crime group who trafficked more than £300,000 of Class-A drugs into Plymouth have been jailed for eight and three and half years respectively by Exeter Crown Court, Plymouth Life has reported.

It said the group operated between Plymouth, London and Cyprus, transporting large quantities of heroin and crack cocaine between August 2016 and July 2017.

Local couriers based in Plymouth collected and delivered the drugs between London and Plymouth while the leader of the group relocated to Cyprus where he ran the financial side of the business.

George Pikounis, aged 29, from Cyprus was the lead organiser and was sentenced to eight years.

Martin Payne, aged 27, from Plymouth was the lieutenant of the group and received a sentence of six years.

Helen Katsigianni, aged 67 and Pikounis’ mother from London was an organiser and courier. She was given a three and a half year sentence.

Alan Welch, aged 45, from Plymouth was a local courier and money launderer. He was sentenced to 15 months, suspended for 2 years. Nicola Baxter, aged 39, from Plymouth was a Plymouth based courier. She was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years.

Katsagianni would also visit Devon to deliver drugs to the local couriers, Baxter and Welch who would distribute it into local communities, the newspaper said.

The investigation showed the Katsigianni would regularly travel to Devon and stay up to half an hour before travelling back to London. Baxter and Welch were also found to be travelling up to London, stopping for 20 minutes in the area where Katsigianni lived, before travelling back to Plymouth.

Officers from Devon and Cornwall Police, assisted by The National Crime Agency, Cypriot Law Enforcement Agencies and the Larnaca Drugs Squad, travelled to Cyprus on July 25 , 2017  to arrest Pikounis at his home in Pyla. He was held by Cypriot courts before being extradited to the UK the following week.

At the time of the arrest in Cyprus, officers also arrested Katsigianni at her home in London, to minimise loss of evidence.

The other members of the group were arrested in Plymouth a week later, in early August 2017.

In September 2017, the group attended Exeter Crown Court for a plea hearing. Pikounis and Baxter entered guilty pleas for conspiring to supply heroin and cocaine. Payne pleaded guilty to conspiracy supply cocaine but not guilty for supply of heroin.

The remaining two defendants pleaded not guilty at the September hearing and opted to stand trial in May 2018. During the 10 day trial, Katsigianni changed her plea due to overwhelming evidence.

Welch was deemed too unwell to stand trial and his case was adjourned until June 2018. At trial he entered a guilty plea for money laundering.

Payne was found guilty by the jury of conspiring to supply heroin, and money laundering.

All five were sentenced at Exeter Crown Court on Friday, August 31.

Investigating officer, Detective Constable Chris Louca said the investigation team produced over 10,000 pages of evidence, including mobile phone data and financial records. The level of detail in the evidence was key to the defendants entering early guilty pleas and successfully convicting those who chose to stand trial.

“We would like to thank the Cypriot Law Enforcement Agencies and the National Crime Agency for their assistance in the overseas arrest and extradition of Pikounis,” he added.

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