Drug lord nicknamed 'Mario' jailed for 25 years after raid uncovered heroin worth $84 million
Fikri Yarasir, 53, was allegedly nicknamed Mario because he looks like the classic video game character
One of Britain's biggest heroin smuggling rings was set up by a 53-year-old Turkish crime lord who had moved to the country after he was deported from Germany for international drug trafficking. Fikri "Mario" Yarasir was barred from entering Germany after being jailed for importing heroin from Turkey into Frankfurt in 1997. Yarasir was nicknamed "Mario" because he looks like the popular video game character.
On Monday, Yarasir was jailed along with six associates after 210 kg of high purity heroin was found hidden in tables in Greater Manchester last year.
After he was released from the German prison, however, he moved to the market town of Glossop in Derbyshire. Once there, he set up a pizza takeaway store called Yummies and started another drug smuggling operation.
The authorities started keeping a watch on the drug lord after they received a tip. They followed a HGV from Dover all the way to a warehouse in Salford, which is near Manchester. Yarasir was then seen unloading the drugs. The Class A drugs were cleverly hidden inside a shipment of tables. Officers then raided the warehouse and discovered about 210 kg of heroin that were seperated as 420 half kg blocks. The estimated worth of the entire haul is said to be £63 million.
The drugs all came from Istanbul, Turkey and were reportedly about to make their way to Rhyl, North Wales. Once there, it has been reported that they would be prepared and the sold across North England. Yarasir was sentenced for 25 years behind bars in April 2017 but the full extent of his criminal background emerged only now because the last of his group has been jailed.
Prosecutors in the case said that he was directly involved in buying a factory in Turkey that is reportedly worth £1 m. This was after he had claimed that he was earning only around £12,000 a year from 2011 to 2017 in the UK. It is still not known how he was able to get to Britain and settle down there.
Detective Inspector Lee Griffin of Greater Manchester Police told the Daily Mail: "The lengths this group went to to try and conceal the drugs, cover their tracks and evade police capture, would have been impressive had they not failed at simple hurdles like leaving fingerprints and traceable bank transfers."
"Drugs, heroin in particular, have a detrimental effect on the communities that the majority of people work so hard to uphold and ruin the lives of those most vulnerable and their families."
"We are constantly building a better picture of illicit activity and those who profess to be sophisticated criminals and will continue to do everything in our power to find those who attempt to make a profit from putting others in harm's way."
The authorities started the investigation in October 2016 after the surveillance team saw that there were many interactions happening between a certain group of criminals. One of the interactions included a cash deal for a fork lift. The investigation was titled "Operation Cartoon".
In August 2017, the drug lord was spotted guiding an articulated lorry, which had a Turkish registration plate, to the industrial area where he and one of the Yummies employees were seen unloading the cargo of furniture and putting it inside the warehouse. They then left the warehouse and officers entered the unit. Once inside, they fund 42 tables that were kept to the side of the storage unit which were covered with cellophane. The whole place looked "untidily and hurriedly stacked".
The officers broke open the cellophaned tabled and found an empty spave that was between the top and the underside. In the space they found 10 x 500 gram bags of heroin. Forensic tests that were done on the heroin found that it was such high quality that it had a street worth of around £63 million.
That very same day, officers went into a lockup in Rhyl and found equipment that had been set up already for a "bash house". This is a place where the drugs can be diluted with some other substances and increase the value in onward supply. The area also included a hydraulic press that is used for compressing the drugs into custom moulds.
Enquiries into the building revealed a business called "Freight Forward Ltd.". The shell company had been set up so that the gang could import the drugs into the UK. The only customer on the company's manifesto was Yarasir. A quick check into the finances showed that a large amount of money was being paid to the company that stretched over several months. They were all linked to the drug lord.
One couple had been used as drug mules so that they could transport money to Turkey on numerous occasions. They would go a few days at a time and take a lot of money in cash with then. When they came back to the UK, they would have lighter luggage. The authorities were able to figure out that the bags were lighter because they were spending the money, around £372,500. All the transactions were made on behalf of Yarasir. The drug lord was arrested at his pizza takeaway.
The drug lord denied all the charges that were levelled against him and claimed that he was only gaining "intelligence" on the man who was co-accused. He told the authorities that he wanted to become a police informant. Yarasir then claimed that he had been "exploited" by one of his employees, Ahmet Taskin, and a Korean woman who was living in Spain who he claimed was a customer at his pizza takeaway.
Judge Martin Walsh said that the drug lord played a "leading role" in the crime and was responsible for buying and selling the heroin as well as communicating with other members in his gang.
He said: "Those who seek to profit from the misery caused by greed and the callous disregard for the welfare of individuals and the society in which they live must expect to receive substantial sentences of imprisonment."
"There must have been others, including those at a high level, who remain undetected and who were involved in the carefully planned and executed scheme of importation."