ERSOU investigation into
Benzocaine sales results in lengthy sentence
Three men have been sentenced to over 20 year’s imprisonment as
part of Operation Pillow – an Operation into the supply of vast
amounts of Benzocaine, a cutting agent used in the supply of Class
A drugs, and similar substances.
The large scale investigation, named Operation Pillow, was
carried out by the Eastern Region Serious and Organised Crime Unit
– (ERSOU), which investigates organised crime, covering six police
force areas in the Eastern Region.
All three defendants pleaded guilty to selling cutting agents in
the belief it would encourage or assist the commission of an
offence – namely supply of class A drugs at the start of the trial
St Albans Crown Court on 15 January. They were sentenced on
Tuesday, February 12.
* Antony Savva, aged 29, of Southfield Road, Enfield was
sentenced to 9 years in custody.
* Vangelis Savva, aged 26, of Cobham Close, Enfield was sentenced
to 6 years and 9 months in custody.
* Gursu Akgun, aged 29, of Lawrence Avenue, Walthamstow was
sentenced to 6 years and 9 months years in custody.
The three were arrested in May 2011 after a series of warrants
were executed at a number of properties, including their homes,
commercial garages and a storage unit, in Enfield and
During the warrants officers seized 3½ tonnes of analgesic
powders including Benzocaine, Lidocaine, Phenacetin, caffeine and
paracetamol powder, which had been purchased in bulk from
Benzocaine is an analgesic powder used during medical
procedures. However it is also commonly found in heroin and cocaine
as it is used as a bulking agent, along with the other substances.
Phenacetin is banned by the medical council, as it is deemed to be
It is estimated that the amount of powder seized by police, when
mixed with Class A drugs, could reach a street value of 246 million
Detective Superintendent Mark Lay from ERSOU said: “I’m
extremely pleased with the outcome of this investigation and the
sentences laid down by the court. This was a highly organised and
professional criminal operation on an industrial scale. The vast
quantity of cutting agents seized would have had the potential to
be mixed with hundreds of kilos of Class A drugs. Significant
thanks must be given to the tireless dedication of the case officer
Chris Ratcliffe and the Crown Prosecution service who ensured the
successful outcome of this innovative investigation. The vast
seizure will cause significant disruption to a number of criminal
network in London and the home counties. All communities in the
region can be assured that ERSOU will continue to target cross
border Organised Crime Groups engaged in serious criminality.
Detective Constable Chris Ratcliffe of ERSOU said: “Whilst
proper importation of these substances is regulated by various
authorities, at this point in time there is no criminal liability
to importing or possessing these powders, which leads to their
abuse. We prosecuted these men using relatively new legislation
created in 2007 which makes it illegal to sell on these bulking
agents if there is a possibility it would encourage or assist the
commission of an offence, such as producing Class A drugs.
“During a covert operation, we found that these men were selling
the substances to people, without asking for details, why they
wanted it or what it was being used for. The new legislation
enabled us to stop these people from propping up the drugs trade
and making a lot of money out of the misery of others.
“I hope this outcome acts as a warning to others who are
involved in similar practices that we will thoroughly investigate
this type of crime, using all powers available to us to
The Eastern Region Special Operations Unit was set up in 2010 to
deliver an increased response to tackling the threat of organised
crime across the six police forces in the Eastern Region of the
United Kingdom and to providing specialist covert policing
capability to law enforcement.
The unit is made up of resources from across Bedfordshire,
Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, to
identify, disrupt and dismantle organised crime groups impacting on
the Eastern Region. The unit creates additional specialist
capability across the region through effective partnership and
collaboration to make the region a place hostile to organised
For more information about ERSOU, visit www.ersourocu.org.uk