Operation Venetic – Three men sentenced to total of 32 years for roles in major drugs conspiracies
Three men have been jailed today (1 November 2022) for a total of more than 30 years for their roles in an organised crime network that saw huge quantities of drugs and cash moved between London, the Midlands and the West Country.
Adil Riaz, 31, (pictured above) formerly of Grimesthorpe, Sheffield was sentenced to 24 years for the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU) investigation after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply more than 160kg of cocaine from Sheffield to Bath-based Romaine Hyman and to launder over £2.3 million in cash.
Romaine Hyman was at the heart of four conspiracies to supply cocaine and heroin to the South West and launder the millions of pounds made from that supply. He was sentenced to 26 years in prison in February.
Adil Riaz was also dealt with for two Sheffield-based cases investigated by South Yorkshire Police – two robberies in September 2020 and firearms offences relating to items found at an address associated with him.
Officers found a fully automatic AR-15 assault rifle, silencers, numerous rounds of ammunition, as well as three IED hand grenades. His neighbours had to evacuate their properties to allow the Army to safely deal with the weapons.
Bath man Tekla Selassie, 20, formerly of Eastfield Avenue, Bath, was sentenced to three years in a young offenders’ institution for his role as ‘assistant’ to Romaine Hyman
Using the EncroChat handle ‘Youngtek’ on a phone provided by Hyman, Selassie helped him collect and deliver drugs and cash around Bath and Bristol. On one occasion, Hyman messaged Selassie “Yo you good…?…Cool I’m getting the eta for all today’s jobs gonna be a busy one”. Later that day SW ROCU officers watched as Hyman and Selassie carried three bags laden with £540k cash to a car in Bath and collected another 7 kilos of cocaine.
Selassie also acted as a lookout for Hyman, including on the day they were both arrested in May 2020 after taking delivery of seven kilos of cocaine from London. Selassie cycled around Bath, slowing to check out people in Hyman’s vicinity.
Selassie pleaded guilty to five offences.
Tobias Slender, 44, formerly of Dale Walk, Cheltenham, was sentenced to five years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply 2kg of cocaine to Hyman on three separate deliveries.
DCI Charlotte Tucker from the SW ROCU said: “This investigation has dismantled an organised crime network that was making millions of pounds bringing class A drugs into and out of the South West.
“To-date, seven people have been sentenced for their roles, with the central figure, Romaine Hyman, currently serving 26 years. He had clear ambitions to grow his empire and the messages he exchanged with Selassie – who was just 17 at the time – showed Hyman’s clear intention to distance himself from the day to day risky activity, training Selassie up to do that work for him.
“The quantities of drugs and cash involved, together with the weapons seized, show the risks this group posed to our communities – and the sentences handed down clearly reflect that.
“It’s been a huge investigation for our teams, working closely with the CPS, and it’s not over yet. There are more people awaiting sentencing and trials for their roles in this criminal enterprise.”
Ruona Iguyovwe, CPS senior specialist prosecutor, said: ““These three men played significant roles in a highly sophisticated criminal gang supplying Class A drugs to the South West.
“The quantity of drugs and nature of the weapons, if not seized, would have had a drastic impact on communities in the area.
“Following early collaboration with the police, the CPS was able to build a strong case resulting in their conviction, disrupting a major organised crime network and dismantling their dangerous operation.”
DI Flanagan from South Yorkshire Police said: “The communities of South Yorkshire and the surrounding region are now safer due to the imprisonment of Adil Riaz and the removal of these weapons from the hands of him and his criminal associates. The potential harm prevented should these weapons have been utilised cannot be underestimated.
“Riaz was part of an Organised Crime Group operating nationally, involved in the wholesale supply of Class A drugs and associated serious criminality. His imprisonment today should act as a deterrent to those involved in such crimes who think they are above the law. Quite simply they are not, South Yorkshire Police are committed to bringing such people to justice.”