A ruthless crime lord who killed a teenager for the phone he used to run a county lines drugs operation was awarded £52,000 in legal aid – despite raking in £1,000 a day. Gaille Bola, 22, stabbed Meschak Dos Santos Cornelio to death just to get his hands on the 18-year-old’s mobile phone, which he used to sell cocaine and heroin.
The battered Nokia handset was so old it was practically worthless, but the telephone number was worth hundreds of pounds a day because it was the only link to scores of drug addicts.
It emerged yesterday that police have never recovered the phone and believe it is still being used in London to run a county line – the term for the dedicated mobile phone line used to sell, distribute and buy drugs.
Bola was found guilty of manslaughter at a retrial in November after being cleared of murder in a trial at the Old Bailey in July. He faces a life sentence when he is sentenced on February 1.
But there was fury last night at the decision to award the London gangster £34,127 to fund his defence after he boasted at his trial how much he made from selling drugs in Hertfordshire.
Following a freedom of information request from the Mail, it was revealed yesterday that Bola was granted a total of £52,779 in legal aid, including the £34,127 for his murder and manslaughter trials and £18,651 to cover the legal costs for 13 other cases involving 20 offences including knife crime.
The officer in the charge of the case said last night that Bola’s boasts about his earnings stunned jurors at his manslaughter trial at Blackfriars Crown Court. Detective Sergeant Brett Hagen added: ‘It was the phone that was the target. It was just a basic old Nokia but it was worth a small fortune. ‘The figures he boasted about in the witness box were staggering.
‘Everyone was incredulous at the sums and the incredible arrogance he displayed. The judge and jury raised their eyebrows at the money Bola was making – £1,000 a day after he had paid his runners, dealers and wholesalers.’
Bola – one of the biggest county lines drugs barons brought to justice so far – was running three rackets, supplying hundreds of addicts in Hertfordshire.
But profits of £365,000 a year weren’t enough for the gangster, who wanted to expand his territory into north-east London by taking over a county line run by Mr Cornelio.
Police believe it is the first time in the UK that anyone has been killed for a county line. Considered by Scotland Yard to be one of the most dangerous gangsters in London’s notorious Get Money Gang, Bola used an army of children to run his lucrative drugs chains.
He recruited Mr Cornelio when he was just 15. The schoolboy was groomed by Bola for years, working for him as a runner before establishing a busy county line of his own in October 2017. But after Bola realised how much he was earning – thought to be hundreds of pounds a day – he ambushed the young dealer as he was preparing for a night of sales on New Year’s Eve in 2017.
Bola repeatedly punched him in the head shouting, ‘Give me the phone’, but Mr Cornelio refused to hand over the Nokia handset and was stabbed in the chest. Bola then fled with the phone.
Anyone taken to a criminal trial is entitled to legal aid if their gross monthly income is below £3,125. In Bola’s case, he was able to prove that he had no legitimate income because he had never held down a job in his life.