A DRUG dealer at the centre of a multi-million pound cocaine empire has been jailed after his visits to Weymouth and Bournemouth played a crucial role in crime investigations.

Fatjon Kurti, 34 has been jailed for 12 years after organising cocaine deals worth more than £4m in just three months.

The National Crime Agency said Kurti used an encrypted communications platform called EncroChat to sell the Class A drug - boasting that "his business is cocaine" during deals.

A spokesperson for the NCA said his visits to Dorset "were absolutely key" to linking the Encrochat handle to Mr Kurti.

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During his visits to the county investigators were able to link the number plate of Kurti's hire car to mobile phone cell site data.

"Essentially we were able to match the ‘dirty’ phone to his movements on those days," the NCA spokesperson added.

Their investigations revealed how, between March 26 and June 2 2020, Kurti, was involved in deals to buy and supply at least 58kg of cocaine with a street value of more than £4m.

Kurti, of Newport Court near Leicester Square in central London, orchestrated the deals on EncroChat using the handle ‘Botarrota’.

In a bid to avoid detection, he set up a front company called E&T Catering which was registered to his home but did not exist as a functioning catering business.

EncroChat was taken down in 2020 by an international law enforcement partnership.

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The National Crime Agency led Operation Venetic as the UK’s response to the takedown and began investigating Kurti who is an Albanian national.

Though no real world identities are present on EncroChat, NCA officers proved Kurti was Botarrota and he admitted trafficking multiple kilos of cocaine, supplying cocaine and money laundering.

Location data for the Botarrota Encro phone showed it operating mainly around London. But the phone was in Weymouth and Bournemouth on May 20 2020 and June 2 2020 respectively.

Data from the ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) system identified two vehicles matching the movements of the phone.

Checks showed Kurti had hired both cars and mobile cell site data also showed that Kurti’s other mobile phone was travelling with the Encro phone in the two vehicles.

The handle was also matched to Kurti through another means.

Botarrota sent a message to another user saying he had ordered a Playstation - “it comes on Thursday" – and data showed Kurti began subscribing to Sony services at this time.

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NCA officers waded through more than 16,000 messages on Kurti’s Encro phone to gather evidence.

That evidence showed he had a number of trusted associates - who were responsible for the holding and distribution of cocaine and the collection of cash payments - all of which he coordinated.

The NCA said that in EncroChat exchanges Kurti stated that his “business is cocaine” and the Venetic data showed him receiving many images of cocaine and bank notes which he forwarded to numerous contacts to discuss drugs deals.

On May 3 2020 he discussed with someone doing a deal for 11 one kilogram blocks of cocaine for £272,500.

He was arrested on November 25 last year.

Today (March 30) at Southwark Crown Court he was jailed for 12 years.

NCA Branch Commander Matt McMillan said: “Through some excellent and tenacious investigative work the team built a rock solid case and Kurti’s only option was to admit his guilt.

“The Class A drugs trade is inextricably linked to gang violence and real suffering in communities across the UK.

“The NCA works with partners at home and abroad to fight drug trafficking and we’ll continue to do everything we can to stop men like Fatjon Kurti.”