National Crime Agency
The gloves are off: Drug traffickers sentenced for importing heroin
Three members of an organised crime group have been sentenced to a total of 45 years for smuggling a minimum of £2.49 million worth of heroin from Pakistan into the UK via the post
The trio - from Luton and Birmingham - imported drugs through UK airports concealed within packages of boxing gloves, equine dentistry tools, and motorcycle gloves.
Thirteen packages were recovered containing a total of five kilos of high purity heroin, with the NCA investigation team estimating a further 14 kilos were imported based on records showing previous parcels linked to the crime group.
The NCA began investigating Sultan Mahmood Butt, aged 37, Nibeel Saghir, aged 34, Rizwan Ahmed, aged 34, who are all relatives from Pakistan now living in the UK, and Denise Ellis, aged 46, from Birmingham, after Border Force officers at Stansted Airport seized almost three kilos of heroin in June 2015 hidden in cobb elevators – a piece of surgical equipment for the spine.
NCA officers identified that Luton-based Butt was the head of the crime group and responsible for organising the importations from Pakistan.Saghir was the middleman who ensured the onward delivery of the drugs to various addresses in Luton and Birmingham, with assistance from Ahmed and Ellis.
Ahmed and Ellis were arrested in 2015 after a number of the intercepted packages were found to be destined for their home addresses. The packages were seized at Stansted, East Midlands and Heathrow airports, plus a parcel delivery depot in Tamworth.
Butt’s phone number was linked to the packages and he was also arrested. He had sent a WhatsApp message of a photo detailing the address for an impending importation that was subsequently intercepted at Heathrow.
Saghir was arrested in January 2016 after the analysis of phone records proved his involvement in the conspiracy. During one 13-minute period, on the date of an attempted drugs delivery, there were twelve calls between Butt and Saghir.
The NCA investigation proved that all four individuals involved in the operation were in contact with each other at key times around each importation. Most of their communication was on burner phones.
Following Ahmed’s arrest in June 2015 and after the second seizure of heroin at East Midlands Airport, Ellis sent a text to an unidentified number: “Txt me wen ready to pick up. Best collect it tonite then I can’t get blamed for anything.”
In July this year Butt, Saghir and Ahmed were all found guilty of importing heroin. Ellis pleaded guilty in September 2017.
Last Friday at Birmingham Crown Court, Butt, Saghir, Ahmed were jailed for 20, 15, and 10 years respectively. Ellis’ sentencing has been delayed.
Matt Horne, Deputy Director for Investigations at the NCA, said:
“Drug trafficking doesn’t always happen in one big shipment. This group attempted to smuggle over £2.49 million worth of heroin little and often through the post, wrongly thinking they could avoid detection.
“Drug trafficking is a major source of revenue for crime groups, many of whom are involved in multiple crime types; adapting their methods to law enforcement responses.
"Working with Border Force and other partners we are committed to doing all we can to make sure drug smugglers are stopped and, ultimately, crime doesn’t pay.”
Dan Scully, Border Force Deputy Director Intelligence Operations, said:
“Drug smuggling is a serious crime causing real harm to the UK. Those engaged in it will always look for new ways to evade detection. Border Force’s challenge is to stay one step ahead of those who seek to harm our communities.
“In this case concealed heroin was detected by our diligent and professional Border Force officers at a number of ports. Our intelligence teams established a link between the various attempts to import illegal narcotics into the UK and that evidence supported the dismantling of an organised crime group.”
Latest News from
National Crime Agency
Suspected British criminals arrested in Australia and New Zealand drug bust16/08/2019 14:05:00
An international operation involving the National Crime Agency (NCA) has led to the seizure of just under 1000 kilos of MDMA and meth and the arrest of four British men in one of Australia’s biggest ever drug seizures.
£100m Account Freezing Orders are largest granted to NCA15/08/2019 10:20:00
The NCA has been granted freezing orders on eight bank accounts containing a total of more than £100 million, which is suspected to have derived from bribery and corruption in an overseas nation
NCA appeal for help in tracing wanted Manchester man Kurt McDonough Drug trafficking Fugitives15/08/2019 09:25:00
NCA investigators have released the image of the 53-year-old from Manchester, who failed to attend court in connection with drugs offences.
Dozens of arrests in the UK as part of Europe-wide anti-slavery operation09/08/2019 14:10:00
44 people have been arrested and 35 potential victims have been identified in the UK as part of a Europe-wide operation targeting modern slavery and human trafficking.
£40m heroin seizure after international operation07/08/2019 09:15:00
An international law enforcement investigation has resulted in one of the largest ever seizures of heroin in the UK.
Man charged after 60 guns recovered hidden in car05/08/2019 13:43:00
The find is believed to be the largest seizure of lethal purpose weapons at a UK port.
New Non-Executive Directors on the NCA Board02/08/2019 16:15:00
Three new Non-Executive Directors have been appointed to the NCA Board: Mary Calam, David Horncastle and Andrew Tivey. Andrew is also taking up the role as Chair of our Audit Risk and Assurance Committee (ARAC).
Help us catch them! Just 11 fugitives still on the run after 84 captured02/08/2019 11:15:00
Suspected murderers, sex offenders and drugs traffickers are among just 11 fugitives left on the run in a campaign that has seen 84 offenders already caught across Europe.