7 July 2017
Eight men have been convicted of conspiring to smuggle heroin worth up to £10m into the UK from Pakistan following a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation.
Seven of the men, who concealed the drugs inside industrial machinery, were found guilty today (7 July 2017) at Birmingham Crown Court, while one pleaded guilty before the trial.
Ameran Zeb Khan, 38, (pictured, top left) Mohammed Ali, 36, (top, second left) and Sajid Hussain, 32, (top, third from left) organised two container shipments from Lahore, via Karachi, to the London Gateway Port in February and July last year.
Border Force officers searched the July shipment, cutting open the lathes (pictured) to find 165kg of powdered heroin.
NCA and BF officers reassembled the equipment and sent the container on to its delivery address at an industrial unit in Sandwell, West Midlands.
Omar Isa, 36 (top right) and Imran Arif, 35, (bottom left) took delivery of the lathes, unaware NCA officers were filming them and recording their conversations.
Other key players in the group were Rajesh Patel, 52, (bottom, third from left) who used his business to provide apparently legitimate paperwork for the shipments and Mohammed Ashaf Khan, 49, (bottom, second left) who handled logistics.
Zulfgar Munsaf, 38, (bottom right) who pleaded guilty before the trial, passed on the bosses’ wishes to the ground troops.
The seized heroin, which the group planned to sell on in bulk, had a purity of 58 per cent and was worth £5m uncut.
The NCA believe a similar quantity of heroin was contained in an earlier shipment for which they have found records, meaning the conspiracy could have earned the group up to £10m.
After cutting the 165kg of heroin to 25 per cent purity, street level gangs could have made up to 2m street deals, generating revenue of up to £19,140,000.
If the first shipment contained a similar quantity of heroin, the total street value would double accordingly.
Known to law enforcement
Ameran Zeb Khan was already known to the NCA as a subject of a civil recovery and tax investigation.
The investigation eventually saw Birmingham and Northern Ireland-based individuals deprived of 11 properties and money worth more than £2m.
Zeb Khan, his close associate Khaibar Rahman, and a number of other family members handed over four properties and £50,000 in a bank account to the NCA in October 2016.
The NCA recovered a further seven properties and the contents of another bank account at court hearings where NCA investigators successfully argued that these assets had been acquired with the proceeds of crime.
Dent in the criminal economy
Jim Cook, senior investigating officer at the NCA said: “The officers on this job skilfully took apart metal machinery, reassembled it and got it to its destination in good time without arousing suspicion.
“The NCA, Border Force and West Midland police have stopped street level gangs accruing revenues of about £20million.
“This adds to the illicit property potfolio the NCA has already clawed back from a wider group with links to this job.
“Results like this protect the public firstly by keeping this drug off the streets but also by putting a serious dent in the criminal economy.”
Pete Roffey, senior officer at Border Force London gateway, said: "Drug smugglers will go to great lengths to coneal their criminal cargo in an attempt to evade border controls.
"The challenge Border Force faces is to stop that happening.
"As a result of this Border Force detection our law enforcement partners have been able to bring key players in this organised drugs ring to justice."
John Davies, from the CPS international justice and organised crime division, said: "These men were involved in a sophisticated conspiracy to import a huge amount of heroin into the country, ignoring the human cost class A drugs can have.
“The prosecution case demonstrated how the operation involved the use of bogus companies, false documents, unregistered mobile phones and trips to Pakistan.
“By careful presentation of the evidence in court, the prosecution demonstrated the individual roles played by each of these men, resulting in the guilty verdicts returned by the jury.”