Two jailed for cannabis cultivation and smuggling racket
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Two Corby men convicted of growing and importing cannabis worth almost £700,000 have been jailed.
The illegal scheme was run by Miroslav Krmpotic, aged 38, aided by Cedo Novakovic, aged 53, who drove vans to and from the Continent for Krmpotic to bring in vast quantities of the Class B drug.
Northampton Crown Court heard how in the summer of 2014, Krmpotic set up a cannabis factory in Weldon, after a previous set-up in Wolverhampton was burgled and his plants stolen.
Raided by Northamptonshire Police that July, officers found 227 plants and harvested cannabis worth more than £450,000 in the High Street factory.
With his supply interrupted, Krmpotic turned to importing cannabis from Europe, employing a number of people to collect the drug, including a 22kg shipment worth over £214,000 found hidden in the false ceiling of a van driven by Novakovic stopped by the UK Border Agency at Dover in September 2014.
The following month, another van driven by Nenad Bobic, again on behalf of Krmpotic, was stopped at the same port, with eight parcels of cannabis weighing 2kg and worth almost £20,000 found by officials.
In September 2015 a further illegal cannabis farm run by Krmpotic in Wolverhampton was discovered by police before it could become fully operational.
Having been arrested and charged by Northamptonshire Police on March 20, 2016, Krmpotic fled the country, eventually being arrested in Barcelona in May 2019 and returned to the UK in June 2019 this year.
His trial opened at Northampton Crown Court on November 11 this year, with Krmpotic entering three guilty pleas to conspiring to produce a controlled drug and two charges of conspiring to import a controlled drug into the UK on the second day of proceedings.
Novakovic was convicted by a jury of one count of conspiring to import a controlled drug.
At a sentencing hearing on November 19, His Honour Judge Michael Fowler told Krmpotic: “I have no hesitation in concluding you are properly sentenced as having a leading role in these enterprises.
“Having regard to the number of grows and the fact that there are both offences of conspiracy to produce cannabis and import it into the country, I am confident to place this at the top of category 2 dealing with the matter effectively as an overall conspiracy to produce and introduce cannabis into market in the UK.”
Krmpotic, of Stone House Mews, Corby, was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for conspiring to producing a controlled drug, with a further seven year sentence for conspiring to import a controlled drug and five years for conspiring to import a controlled drug, to be served concurrently.
Sentencing Novakovic, of Rockingham Road, Corby, to two years’ imprisonment, Judge Fowler acknowledged his ‘lesser’ role in the importation scheme, but said he was acting autonomously when he was sent abroad to collect the drugs, organising payment and supervising loading.
Bobic, aged 57, also of Rockingham Road, Corby, had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import and produce cannabis and in 2018 received a 12-month suspended sentence.
Investigating officer Alex Curlett said: “Krmpotic’s offending may have taken place years ago, but officers have remained active in this case to ensure it could be successfully brought to court so he could be punished for his actions.
“This was persistent and determined offending by a man who deliberately set out to cultivate large quantities of illegal drugs for his own gain, before turning to his importation set-up when his UK-based growing operations were thwarted.
“Tackling drug and gang-related offending is a priority for Northamptonshire Police, and those who seek to profit from such illegal activity will be relentlessly pursued. The conclusion of proceedings against Krmpotic after all these years shows our Force will not rest in the pursuit of justice.”