Birmingham £11m cocaine smuggler Mirgent Shahu snared unpacking bananas he thought were drugs

Mirgent Shahu was part of a gang acting on behalf of an Albanian organised crime group who picked him up from Costa Coffee in Kings Heath, Birmingham
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Four members of an organised crime group have been jailed after attempting to smuggle 139 kilos of cocaine into the UK hidden in a consignment of bananas.

National Crime Agency investigators arrested the four as they unloaded a shipping container containing bananas that they believed contained the £11m pounds-worth of drugs in April 2022.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The container had arrived from Ecuador and was searched at London Gateway port. Border Force officers found a number of cocaine packages in the roof area. These were removed and the container was resealed.

The gang included Mirgent Shahu, from Sutton Coldfield, who was spotted by National Crime Agency (NCA) detectives as he was picked up by gang leader Robert Ball, from Costa Coffee in Kings Heath, Birmingham.

Ball was later found to be acting on behalf of an Albanian organised crime group. NCA officers tracked him contacting the shipping line to ask them to release four containers, including the one he thought contained the drugs a few days before the banana arrests in Coventry.

Mirgent ShahuMirgent Shahu
Mirgent Shahu

Why were the banana containers in Coventry?

Ball, 59, from Altrincham, Cheshire, had arranged for a transport company to collect and move the containers to a storage company in Herald Way, Coventry. These movements were watched by NCA surveillance officers.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ball, along with two other accomplices - Florjan Ibra and Arman Kaviani - arrived a few days later, on 15 April 2022 (Good Friday). Ball had driven from Cheshire earlier that day, collecting Shahu on the way.

Ball and Shahu gave instructions to Kaviani and Ibra at the storage yard, who used a forklift truck to get on top of the container.

They ripped open the roof using a crowbar and started unloading packages they believed contained the drugs, but as they did so NCA and police officers moved in to arrest them. Kaviani and Ibra attempted to flee but were apprehended.

Mirgent Shahu surveillance shotMirgent Shahu surveillance shot
Mirgent Shahu surveillance shot

What happened in court?

All four men were later charged with cocaine importation offences. Ball and Shahu were convicted by a jury at Warwick Crown Court on 26 May this year, while Ibra and Kaviani pleaded guilty at a previous hearing.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

At the same court today (Wednesday November 1) Ball and Shahu were each sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. Ibra was jailed for 13.5 years and Kaviani to 12 years and nine months at previous hearings.

‘Cocaine fuels violence and exploitation’

NCA Operations Manager David Phillips said: “Ball and Shahu oversaw the nuts and bolts of this conspiracy on behalf of the organised crime group behind it.

“This group enlisted the assistance of Ibra and Kaviani, who they hoped would retrieve the drugs and make their efforts worthwhile. Unfortunately for these men, NCA officers were watching their every move before moving in to arrest them.

Robert BallRobert Ball
Robert Ball

“Cocaine fuels violence and exploitation, including gang culture and firearm and knife crime in the UK and around the world. Removing this consignment from circulation will have been a sizeable blow to this criminal network, preventing them from generating profits that would have been invested in further criminality. We are determined to dismantle major international crime groups like this one from top to bottom.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said:“This is the latest example of Border Force officers seizing millions of pounds worth of cocaine and dismantling an abhorrent criminal gang.

"This case demonstrates how Border Force use cutting-edge technology to stay ahead of organised crime groups to keep our borders secure and protect our communities from illegal and dangerous substances.”