A huge drug smuggling operation, in which Burnley criminals played a key role, has been smashed by police.
The organised crime network involved has been jailed for a total of 75 years. Such was the complexity, three police operations were needed to crack the drugs empire.
The Burnley operation – which involved local women Deborah Tomlin (48) and Michelle Simpson (34) – would have seen them receiving 1.5kg of heroin worth up to £300,000, smuggled from Pakistan.
They had been recruited by Mohammed Fawad (29) of Colne Road, on behalf of the operation’s “Mr Big” Mohammed Imran Khan (34) of Oldham. Thirteen other people from Burnley and Nelson were also convicted.
Police revealed that on July 10th last year a Fedex consignment from Pakistan was intercepted at Stanstead Airport that claimed to contain bedsheets. However, when examined it was found to contain more than 1.5kg of heroin worth up to £300,000 stashed between the bedding and blankets. The parcel was destined for an address in Burnley.
The address was registered to Simpson and Tomlin, who were recruited by Fawad on behalf of Khan to receive the packages themselves.
Inquiries established a similar package allegedly containing bedsheets had been sent from Pakistan to the same address using Fedex on July 2nd 2012.
Two days later they were both arrested along with Khan, who was arrested at his home in Oldham. He was found hiding in a locked bedroom and £9,000 in cash and 12 mobile phones were seized.
Calls from Pakistan would come down the chain of command to Khan, then Khan to Fawad and finally from Fawad to Simpson and Tomlin.
Similar operations were being run from Oldham.
Speaking after the gang were sentenced at Minshull Street Crown Court, Det. Insp Chris Mossop, from GMP’s Serious Organised Crime Group, said: “This is the culmination of more than a year’s work to bring some extremely determined and well-connected drug dealers to justice and I am delighted so many of these criminals are now starting lengthy jail sentences.
“Some of these offenders belonged to multiple criminal networks which shows the scale and determination of these criminals to build up their drug empires. However, the fact that we have successfully prosecuted offenders from three separate criminal empires shows the lengths officers will go to in their efforts to unmask everyone involved in these drug empires and bring them crashing down.
“It is very rare to bring successful prosecutions against every level of an organised crime network, but in the case of Mohammed Imran Khan’s gang, that is exactly what we have done.
“But in this instance we have utterly dismantled this network root and branch which is a massive achievement. Effectively, we have permanently removed a major supply chain that shipped millions of pounds worth of heroin from Pakistan to the UK.
“The knock-on effect will have an impact across the communities of not just Manchester but the North-West.”
Insp Nicola Bithell, of Lancashire Police, said: “Let these significant sentences serve as a warning – we will not tolerate the dealing of drugs within our communities. We take this activity very seriously and we will continue to commit to investigating those who deal drugs and we will put them before the courts and ask that they are punished for their crime.”