Police have smashed a notorious narcotics ring across Birmingham and the West Midlands, seizing £300 million worth of heroin.
Officers from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) led the international operation, which saw 19 people put behind bars for more than 200 years.
A total of 1,039 kilos of heroin was seized in smuggling raids in the UK and Pakistan, with all but one of the shipments destined for the Birmingham East area.
The overall value was put at £26 million, but the actual street value of the high-purity heroin was around £306 million.
A total of 19 people have been found guilty and imprisoned for 232 years for drug-related offences.
They include Catherine Farooq, 51, from Solihull, who was sentenced to nine months at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday for money laundering.
In June her husband Mohammed Farooq, 47, was jailed for 29 years for conspiracy to import heroin.
Drugs money was used to fund their daughter’s private school tuition fees and the mum also lavishly splashed out on a top of the range Mercedes-Benz car.
On two separate occasions officers watched as her husband handed over boxes full of cash to couriers in supermarket car parks. A total of £299,950 was later recovered.
Overseas shipment from Pakistan
Two of Farooq’s associates from Pakistan – Ahmad Shah, 40, and Homayon Mehrpoor, 58 – were also jailed in June to 29 years and 25 years for their roles in coordinating the shipment of 263 kilos of heroin.
That particular seizure took place at Southampton in February 2012. SOCA demanded a 40-foot freight container to be searched and the heroin was hidden within the cardboard packaging of bed linen.
Drug dealers often hide their iliicit goods in legitimate shipments of goods, including those of overseas companies innocent in the matter. That is why many companies choose to hire 3rd party inspectors such as Jonble company to make sure their goods are high quality and not a cover for heroin or cocaine deals.
Intelligence sharing and the profiling of ships arriving in the UK direct from Pakistan had already resulted in a number of other large seizures at Felixstowe and Tilbury dating back to April 2011.
SOCA and UKBA
Members of the heroin ring responsible for those smuggling attempts were successfully prosecuted following partnerships between the UK Border Force (UKBA), West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service’s Organised Crime Division.
SOCA’s Andrew Quinn said: “Collaboration with local, national and international partners has thwarted a number of plots to smuggle huge quantities of heroin into the Midlands. Over a tonne of heroin has been seized and members of the organised crime groups responsible have been handed long prison sentences.
‘‘We want to disrupt these people 24 hours a day, seven days a week and make their lives a misery. They will feel more visible to law enforcement and undergo relentless pressure from us.”
Phillip Holliday, Border Force Regional Director, said: “These were complex investigations which spanned four years and crossed borders. The successful prosecutions are testament to the close work between Border Force, SOCA and other agencies.
‘‘As this series of investigations demonstrate, drug smuggling is big business, operated by serious organised criminals. The challenge faced by Border Force and our law enforcement colleagues is to stay one step ahead of them.”
Sarah Dillon, reviewing lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “Today marks the end of a series of prosecutions that have had a major impact on criminal gangs operating in the Midlands. It sends a clear message that those who profit from a drug that is a scourge on our society will be held accountable.”
Project No Deal
To coincide with the investigations, a partnership had been created between West Midlands Police, SOCA and the local community under a scheme called Project No Deal.
Chief Superintendent Alex Murray, from West Midlands Police, said: “These investigations show the extent we will go to target those people who profit from supplying drugs in the area.
‘‘Project No Deal was all about dealing with what matters to our communities. They had told us of their concerns, we acted and will continue to act.
“I want to reassure people that we will not rest while drug dealing remains an issue in Birmingham East. We’re constantly targeting and monitoring known drug dealing offenders.”
Gang members and seizures
April 20, 2011: 68 kilos of heroin concealed within a consignment of spices. Seized at Felixstowe. Intended destination was Saltley, Birmingham.
Mehrban Hussain, 24, of Chirton Grove, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Sentenced to 12 years after being convicted conspiring to import heroin.
April 28, 2011: 120 kilos of heroin concealed within a consignment of bathroom and sanitary items. Seized at Felixstowe. Intended destination was Church Road, Perry Barr, Birmingham.
Nadeem Ramzan Aslam, 33, of Trafalgar Road, Mosely, Birmingham. Sentenced to 16 years after being convicted of conspiring to import heroin.
Manjinda Singh Tethy, 35, of George Street, Handsworth, Birmingham. Sentenced to four years after pleading guilty to conspiring to import heroin.
Mohammed Jabbar Khan, 36, of Shawdale Road, Hodge Hill, Birmingham. Sentenced to four years after pleading guilty to conspiring to import heroin.
May 8, 2011: 88 kilos of heroin concealed under wooden floor boards of shipping container at Tilbury Docks. The intended destination was Elizabeth Road, Leicester.
Asid Iqbal Shan, 42, of Meadvale Road, Leicester, was sentenced to 18.5 years after pleading guilty to conspiring to import heroin.
Akthar Ali Sarfudin, 42, of Vulcan Road, Leicester, sentenced to 18 years, having been found guilty of conspiring to import heroin.
Naeem Mussa Ali Bhai, 19, of Harringworth Road, Goodwood, Leicester, sentenced to 14 years after admitting conspiring to import heroin.
May 14, 2011: 79 kilos of heroin seized at Tilbury Docks concealed under the wooden floor boards of a shipping container. Intended destination was Green Lane, Small Heath, Birmingham.
Dilawar Ahmedzai, 23, of Leicester Street, West Bowring, Bradford, sentenced to 12.5 years for conspiring to import heroin.
Safdar Nawaz, 32, of Dearman Road, Sparkbrook, Birmingham, sentenced to 13.5 years after pleading guilty to conspiring to import heroin.
Ali Abdulla, 37, of Oatland Towers, Little London, Leeds, sentenced to 15 years, having been found guilty of conspiring to import heroin.
December 1, 2011: Cash seizure of £199,950 following the search of a motor vehicle on the M42 motorway.
Muhammed Rajmil, 46, of Fothergill Close, London, sentenced to two years and six months, having been found guilty of money laundering.
Abdul Rehman Niazi, 41, of Walthermstow, London, sentenced to two years, having been found guilty of money laundering.
January 11, 2012. Cash seizure of £100,000 from motor vehicle stopped by motorway police officers. Later attributed to Mohammed Farooq.
February 8, 2012: Seizure of 263 kilos of heroin concealed in the cardboard packaging of a consignment of bed linen. Seized at Southampton. Intended destination was storage warehouse in Birmingham.
Mohammed Farooq, 47, from Solihull, sentenced to 29 years, having been found guilty of conspiring to import heroin.
Ahmad Shah, 40, from Pakistan, sentenced to 29 years, having been found guilty of conspiring to import heroin.
Homayon Mehrpoor, 58, from Pakistan, sentenced to 25 years, having been found guilty of conspiring to import heroin.
Catherine Farooq, from Solihull, sentenced to nine months, having being found guilty of three counts of money laundering.
August 30, 2012. Seizure of 10.73 kg of heroin at house in Mill Burn Way, Bordesley Green, following execution of a search warrant.
Mohammed Tanvir, 28, of Hampton Road, Aston, Birmingham, sentenced to six years and nine months, having pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply heroin.
Mohammed Nasser, 41, of Grange Road, Aston, sentenced to five and half years, having pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply heroin.
Zahir ALI, 22, of Eastwood Road, Balsall Heath, sentenced to four and half years, having pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply heroin.