A GROUP of drug dealers trafficked more than 120kg of cocaine into Brighton and Hove.

Detectives found the five men had brought the drugs into the city using a “county lines phone system” between March 2016 and July 2017.

County lines involves gangs and organised crime networks supplying drugs outside their usual operating area using dedicated mobile phone lines.

They move their drug dealing from larger cities to smaller areas in order to make more money.

The group were jailed for a total of 67 years at Hove Crown Court last September and have since been ordered to repay more than £180,000 of their profits at the same court on May 10 after Confiscation Orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) were made against them.

Each member of the conspiracy was described by Judge David Rennie as having had a “leading role in the buying and directing of the sale of cocaine on a commercial scale”.

Leonard Aga, 36 self-employed, of Trotwood, Chigwell, Essex, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, money laundering, possession of cocaine and identity documents. He was sentenced to 10 years and was described as having a “significant role” in the chain as a supplier.

Also sentenced, having previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and money laundering, were Ilir Vakaj, 36, of Hampton Road, Teddington, Middlesex, who was given 16 years’ imprisonment, and Ilirjan Hasanaj, 32, of Windermere Road, Bournemouth, who was given 17 years’ imprisonment.

Hysni Tafa, 46, a builder, of Lea Bank, Luton, and Kujedesi Pista, 36, of Cardigan Street, Luton, had previously pleaded guilty to continuing the conspiracy to supply cocaine, between July 2017 and March 2018 once Aga’s activity had been disrupted by the police. Tafa and Pista were each sentenced to 12 years.

Chief Inspector Andy Richardson of the Serious Organised Crime Unit said: “Funds seized by the courts through confiscation or cash forfeiture orders go to the central government exchequer. But a proportion of this is returned to law enforcement. Similar amounts go the Crown Prosecution Service and the court system

“POCA-derived funding that is returned to this force is distributed equally between the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Chief Constable.

Sussex Police receive 50 per cent cash back from cash forfeitures and 18.75 per cent cash back from confiscation orders such as these.

“We fund financial investigators and financial intelligence officers from part of these amounts to help continue our valuable work in seizing criminal assets, with the remainder being used to support local community crime reduction and diversion projects.

“In some cases, like this one, the amounts financially seized or forfeited may be less than the amounts we estimate the criminals have benefited from.

“But it still sends the important message that we will always go after criminal assets even beyond conviction, to try to transfer them to lawful and useful purposes.”