South West Wales

County Lines: Two jailed for trafficking woman to sell drugs

Fesal Mahamud Image copyright Metropolitan Police
Image caption Mahamud was captured on CCTV at London's Paddington station on his way to south Wales

Two London gang members who trafficked a woman to Swansea before forcing her to deal heroin have been jailed.

Swansea Crown Court heard Mahad Yusuf, 21 and Fesal Mahamud, 20, contacted their victim through social media with the promise of work.

But after arriving in Wales, the vulnerable woman was held like a "prisoner".

Yusuf, of Edmonton, and Mahamud, of Enfield, both pleaded guilty to trafficking and drug dealing.

The investigation - codenamed Operation Lindvi and led by the Metropolitan Police - started in March 2017 and focused on a so-called "County Lines" operated by a London street gang.

Prosecuting counsel Caroline Rees QC said the defendants were members of the "Dem Africans" gang.

Mahamud remained in London -taking a "leading role" - while Yusuf was based in Swansea.

The court heard that while their 19-year-old victim "willingly" travelled to Wales, she had no idea what lay in store for her.

The woman was made to live in squalor at a property in Jeffreys Court, Penlan, which had no heating or electricity.

She was also "kept like prisoner" and she felt "compelled" to hide drugs inside her body on several occasions - despite the potentially deadly consequences.


What is County Lines?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption County lines are mainly used to sell crack cocaine and heroin
  • County Lines are organised gangs who extend their drug dealing network from big cities to other areas
  • They often target young people or vulnerable adults to deliver their drugs - often "grooming" them using gifts as well as using intimidation and violence
  • The vulnerable adults targeted are mainly Class A drug addicts but also include the elderly, those with mental or physical health impairments, women sex workers and single mothers
  • Gangs are also increasingly exploiting children - often boys aged 15-17 years old - to act as runners and conduct the day-to-day dealing

After being told by Yusuf that she "belonged to him", the woman's phone was destroyed and she was held at the address for two weeks.

Det Insp Rick Sewart, who led the investigation, described the victim's ordeal as horrendous.

He said: "Unfortunately this case is by no means unique. Drug dealers are exploiting vulnerable people across the country via county lines."

Image copyright Metropolitan Police
Image caption Mahamud (left) lead the operation from London while Yusuf stayed in Swansea and threatened the woman with violence

The court heard while no drugs recovered, thousands of text messages sent to addicts showed that around £42,000 worth of drug deals had been carried out.

In defence the court heard how in the 1990s Mahamud's family fled war torn Somalia seeking a better life.

Mahamud, who was born in the UK, began smoking cannabis from an early age and hung around with a "bad crowd" after his parents' marriage ended.

Defending counsel Neil Baki said: "He is in some respect, a victim of his own circumstances."

Yusuf also claimed to have shown "genuine remorse" for his crimes.

The Londoner, who appeared via video link from HMP Pentonville in London, was said to have not known the full-extent of the drug dealing operation.

Image caption Jeffreys Court in Penlan - where the trafficked woman was held - is three miles from Swansea city centre

Both men pleaded guilty to trafficking a young person for the purposes of exploitation under the Modern Slavery Act.

They also admitted conspiracy to supplying Class A drugs.

Mahamud was handed a 10 year custodial term, while Yusuf was jailed for nine years.

Speaking after the case, Nicola Rees, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said the victim was treated like a commodity.

"She was transported to an unfamiliar location without any means of contacting her family or friends and forced to carry Class A drugs," she added.

The Metropolitan Police said the case was the first time modern slavery legislation had been used in a county lines case.

The force added the victim was now "doing well" and studying in college.

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