Two men jailed for £37 million heroin haul

09/10/2014

Noman Qureshi, aged 32, was jailed for 21 years and Israr Khan, aged 35, was jailed for 18 years at Luton Crown Court today, Thursday, 09 October 2014, after being found guilty of of conspiring with other persons unknown to supply a drug of Class A and conspiring with others to contravene section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1976.

A battered old X-type Jaguar that arrived on a container ship at Felixstowe port had been packed with a secret cargo of heroin with a street value of more than £37 million. The massive haul had been hidden in the vehicle's bumper, wheel arches, behind the dashboard, in the central console, the spare wheel compartment and in the engine and rear seating.

Police were able to find the drugs after the Jaguar was scanned with X-ray equipment, and its secret was revealed in an amazing set of pictures. There were 316 packets of heroin weighing a total of 230 kilos hidden in secret compartments all over the car. The car had arrived from Pakistan and the heroin was from the "fields of Afghanistan."

At Luton Crown Court today Qureshi, of St Ethelbert Avenue, Luton, and Khan of Bracken Hill Mews, Bradford, were both found guilty of conspiring with other persons unknown to supply a drug of Class A. The men were also convicted of conspiring with others to contravening section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1976.

A third man, Mohammed Safder, aged 43, of Sidney Elson Way, East Ham, London, who had pleaded not guilty to the charges was acquitted by the jury.

During the trial the jury were told that on Sunday, 01 December last year the car arrived at Felixstowe port in a container ship from Pakistan.

Prosecutor Gordon Aspden said documents prepared by a man in Karachi, to get it passed through customs, stated it was being imported to be repaired. It was the third time that the man had been involved in sending a Jaguar to the UK for repair. The two other cars had been taken to Bolton and Sheffield in March and August last year.

The Jaguar had no ignition, no electrics and could not be driven, but was "rammed" with 316 packets said Mr Aspden.

The court then heard how the defendants were already under surveillance by officers from the National Crime Agency.

On Friday, 06 December, Qureshi drove from his home in Bradford to Luton where he met Khan. Khan then drove both of them in a Zafira to a service road at the Holiday Inn in Ilford where they met Safder, who lives nearby in East Ham. Safder was driving a VW Golf. The court was told the third Jaguar had been delivered to a repair business in Hayes, Middlesex, but before work was carried out a driver was asked, on the Friday evening, to take it on a low loader to a garage Ley Street in Ilford. All three defendants waited for the Jaguar to be delivered and were "very, very jumpy," said the prosecutor.

The low loader driver was then contacted and told to take the Jaguar to a different address - Church Elm Lane, Dagenham -  where Mr Safdar's brother had a garage. All three defendants went to Dagenham, though Safdar had to leave because of bail conditions previously imposed by the police for the alleged theft of a car.

The National Crime Agency Officers watched as the car was unloaded at around midnight on the forecourt of the garage. But he said Khan and Qureshi were "spooked" and left the scene, leaving the Jaguar, packed with heroin, on the garage forecourt.

The pair were seen in the Zafira at half past one in the morning by Bedfordshire police, who followed them. After a pursuit in Luton along Austin Road, the car was stopped in Britannia Avenue and the two men were arrested. Mr Safder was arrested in February this year.

The Jaguar was taken by the police to Harwich, where it was scanned with X-ray equipment and examined, said Mr Aspden. He said: "There were 316 packets of drugs weighing a total of 230 kilos. It was heroin. The strength was extraordinarily high at 79 per cent. It had a potential street value of over £37 million pounds. The Jaguar was rammed with drugs - no doubt from the fields of Afghanistan. This was high level crime. The drugs were packaged in different coloured bags for different customers - yellow, orange, blue, red and green."

The prosecutor alleged the three defendants would have been trusted to do the job and, if things went wrong, to keep their mouths shut. When interviewed, Khan and Qureshi made no comment and Mr Safder denied being involved.

Before sentencing Phillip King for Qureshi said although his role had been a "significant one" in the conspiracy, he had not been "a financier, organiser or arranger."

Lewis Power QC for Khan, who has two young children, said his family had been left devastated by the verdicts of the jury.

Passing sentence Judge Barbara Mensah told Qureshi, who has two children, "Dealing in heroin is odious, pernicious and evil." She said: "This was a very sophisticated operation and it's clear every cog in the wheel of that operation was important." She said that evidence from the trial showed that Qureshi had been on the phone to Pakistan on the day he drove from Bradford to Luton and onto London. The judge said it was clear his role had been a leading one. "You obviously had management and organisational responsibilities," she added.  She he said he had also had the authority to recruit people to the conspiracy and recruited Khan who had acted as his "trusted lieutenant."

The judge told Khan he had been present during Qureshi's phone call to Pakistan and knew a lot of heroin was involved and the purity of it which was high. She told both men who had previous convictions for drug convictions they had been recruited because they were not novices. There was no doubt, she told the pair that had they not been caught they were have been substantially rewarded.

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