Sanjay Clouden, a Bedford gang member who led police on an almost 20 mile chase after stealing the contents of a cannabis factory, has been jailed for eight years.
Clouden was one of 13 men who appeared in the dock at Harrow Crown Court yesterday (Friday) to be sentenced over a range of serious drug offences linked to a Bedford gang.
The offences included smuggling drugs into prison via Luton Crown Court, as well as the aggravated burglary of a cannabis factory.
Detective Inspector Janine Graham, who led the investigation, said: “The audacity of this gang and their offending is almost beyond belief.
“These men were already standing trial for some shocking violence linked to drug dealing, including a kidnap and serious assault as well as a drive-by shooting.”
Alongside Clouden, one man was jailed for three years for smuggling drugs into prison; five men were handed prison sentences totalling more than 20 years.
However these will run alongside significant jail terms already being served for other offences, while a further six were handed suspended prison sentences.
Clouden, 21, of no fixed address, was one of five men who drove from Bedford to Northumbria where they raided £35,000 of product from a cannabis factory.
Northumbria officers chased the gang for nearly 20 miles, during which Clouden drove into police vehicles in a bid to escape.
Dashcam footage captured the moment one of Clouden’s accomplices was pulled from the vehicle after eventually being stopped.
The five were all convicted of conspiracy to supply Class B drugs, with different members also convicted of burglary and weapon offences. Clouden was additionally convicted of dangerous driving.
Clouden was also one of seven members of the Kempston Block gang convicted of smuggling cannabis and tobacco into Luton Crown Court. The final defendant will be sentenced next week.
Gang members coming into the court used hollowed out trainers to bring the packages in.
These were then transferred over to fellow gang members who were in custody while they stood trial for a series of serious violence.
The men were all convicted of conspiracy to supply Class B drugs.
Reginal Joseph, 31, of Bunyan Road, Kempston, was one of those convicted of smuggling drugs into Luton Crown Court, and was also one of three men sentenced over a separate conspiracy to bring drugs into HMP Peterborough.
He was locked up for a total of three years.
“They showed a complete disregard for the criminal justice system, and attempted to carry on dealing drugs even while they stood in the dock,” added Detective Inspector Janine Graham.
“The cannabis factory burglary and subsequent police pursuit shows a similar disregard for law and order by these gang members.
“The central theme running through this entire saga is drugs. This gang’s determination to keep selling these substances has fuelled all of their dangerous, violent and brazen behaviour.
“This is why tackling the supply of drugs is such a key focus for our force, and we are pleased that many of those involved in this particular trial are now serving lengthy spells behind bars.”
Full list of incidents
Incident One – Aggravated burglary in Northumbria
Bedfordshire Police were looking to arrest a number of Kempston Block gang members when four senior figures were arrested by Northumbria Police in the early hours of 20 February 2018.
This was in connection to a conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary at an address in Glanton Road, North Shields.
Five people travelled up from Bedford to North Tyneside with the intention of stealing the drugs from a cannabis factory.
Northumbria officers managed to track two vehicles which were driven away from the location.
The drivers of both vehicles failed to stop for officers and one of them rammed a police car before being brought to a stop.
Sanjay Clouden was found to be the driver of the Vauxhall Mokka, which had rammed the police car, while Vincent Kingswell-Shaw was in the front passenger seat.
Brandon Mutombo, who was under 18 at the time, was in the back seat of the car and also arrested.
In the boot, officers discovered 363 mature cannabis plants, capable of producing roughly 6.5 kilos of the Class B drug. This has a potential value of around £35,000.
Northumbria officers also arrested Antonio Ziu, who was driving the second car, a black BMW, and Ellis Drummond.
Searches of the car recovered a toolbox containing two knives, one of which was a serrated hunting knife around 25cm in length, which matched a sheath recovered from Drummond’s trousers.
Four of the five men pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to supply cannabis, while Drummond was found guilty of the same offence at trial.
Kingswell-Shaw and Drummond were found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary and two counts of possession of a knife.
Ziu and Clouden were found guilty of the same offences at an earlier trial, while Clouden also pleaded guilty to dangerous driving.
Mutombo pleaded guilty to the two counts of possession of an offensive weapon and the ongoing conspiracy to supply Class B drugs.
This ongoing conspiracy to commercially supply the stolen skunk cannabis on the streets of Bedfordshire was a key part of this conviction.
This activity underpinned the Kempston Block’s wider criminal activities.
The group made drill rap videos referring in their content to identical or similar criminal enterprises, including drive-by shootings.
Prosecution Counsel, Christopher Hewertson, told the court: “It is the Crown’s case that this was a collective criminal agreement between members of a gang to break into a cannabis factory established in a domestic address, when armed – including with the combat knife – knowing that the premises was, or was likely to be, guarded by a member of the criminal group producing high-value cannabis within the facility.
“The Crown’s case was always that the defendants were members of K Block, a criminal street gang in Bedford which profited from the supply of drugs via a variety of modes of operation and underpinned that activity via the possession and use of weapons.
“As the Court of Appeal have made plain, it should never be forgotten that, in relation to offences of this gravity, the victim is not only the man who was terrified and struck but also the public at large, where young men such as these, with previous convictions, chose to arm themselves, disguise themselves and raid a premises.”
Incident Two – Luton Crown Court smuggling
Eight members of the Kempston Block gang were on trial last summer after a kidnap and serious assault, stabbing and drive-by shooting involving their gangland rivals.
During this trial, on 27 July 2018, defendant Shaqiel Quailey mistakenly dropped a package he was concealing behind the dock area at the court. This was found by Serco staff.
Subsequent tests identified the contents as herbal cannabis, tobacco and cigarette papers, mixed in with coffee to disguise the smell.
Nearly a month later, on 23 August, Quailey and Devante Stanley handed over a bag containing clothes and shoes for the defendants at court.
However, Serco officers who searched the bag found that the shoes had been hollowed out. Inside them was cannabis and tobacco.
Forensic work later identified another suspect, Reginal Joseph, whose DNA was found on the drugs package. He was proven to be the group’s packager of the drugs.
All of those on trial at the time were searched and it was discovered that a number of their shoes had been subject to similar modifications.
A phone later found in Sanjay Clouden’s prison cell had been used to contact Stanley on the day of the offence, while discoveries on a phone belonging to Saffa Gbonda were crucial in proving the criminal conspiracy.
Gbonda was proven to have had an iPhone for at least six months while he was in two different prisons.
Analysis of his online bank account showed he had paid out and received around £27,000 via transactions with his network of criminal associates between May and November 2018.
This included nearly £4,000 to the other principal organiser of this conspiracy, Reginal Joseph.
Gbonda claimed this was to do with his business, Finesser Clothing, but could provide no evidence to support these claims.
The analysis showed, as found by the jury, that the smuggling of unlawful micro-phones, cannabis and tobacco into the prison estate was a highly lucrative business from which Gbonda’s criminal associates, in particular Joseph, greatly benefited.
Prosecution Counsel, Christopher Hewertson, told the court: “The Court of Appeal has made clear very that only deterrent sentences are appropriate for those engaged in professional criminal enterprises, for considerable profit, to smuggle drugs and mobile phones into prisons.
“Those Court of Appeal decisions make plain that the organising minds of such conspiracies, enacted over some time, should be treated as leading roles for the purposes of the guidelines, at the top end of the sentencing range. Those are the roles we say Saffa Gbonda and Reginal Joseph occupied.”
Liam McLean was also involved in the smugglers’ network. He is due to be sentenced next week.
McLean and Joseph Gbonda pleaded guilty, with the rest found guilty of conspiracy to supply a Class B drug across the two separate trials.
Three men – Reginal Joseph, Mohammed Abdu and Leon Turpin – were convicted in relation to a separate conspiracy to smuggle drugs into HMP Peterborough.
On 17 May 2018, Turpin was visiting Abdu at the prison when a package containing cannabis, tobacco, two mobile phones and chargers was intercepted.
Its contents were estimated to be worth up to £5,800. Joseph was forensically linked to the package, as he was with the packages seized at Luton Crown Court.
During the trial Mhudia Kaikai, 32, of Hartwell Drive, Kempston, pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of cannabis.
This was over evidence discovered on his phone as part of police enquiries into these offences.
Vincent Kingswell-Shaw received an additional 12 month sentence for being concerned in the supply Class B drugs, over a separate offence uncovered during the investigation.
These investigations also led to Antonio Ziu receiving two separate sentences of 18 months for being concerned in the supply of cocaine and heroin.