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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 Walthamstow.


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 China. 


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 cacogenic.


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 pounds.


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 prosecute.”


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 crime.”


For more information about ERSOU, visit