Two Nelson men who helped to smuggled millions of pounds worth of heroin in to the UK hidden in furniture have been given prison sentences with a third man totaling 33 and a half years.
Investigators were called in after Port Police, Merseyside, and Border Force officers searched a shipping container which arrived at Royal Seaforth Docks in Liverpool from Pakistan on April 18th, 2012.
The container appeared to be loaded with household furniture but further examination found that 8kg of heroin had been concealed within boxes of tables.
The furniture was delivered to Mohammed Naiem Yaqub (34) of Castle Street, Nelson, at a storage unit in Hendon Mill on May 14th, 2012.
Investigators watched as Yaqub, together with Abdul Wahid (37) from Charles Street, Nelson, offloaded the furniture from the container into the storage unit.
Part of the consignment was later loaded into a hired van driven by a third man, Hafiz Akhtar (35) from Dewsbury, who drove it to another storage unit in Leeds.
A search on both storage units recovered a further 20.51kg of heroin from the furniture, bringing the total haul to 28.51kg.
If cut and sold in the UK, the drugs would have a potential likely street value of £6m.
Yaqub pleaded guilty to being knowingly concerned in the importation of class A drugs and Wahid pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply class A drugs.
They were sentenced at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, to 11 and a half and seven years respectively.
Akhtar, who was found guilty on March 22nd, after a three week trial, was sentenced alongside them to 15 years.
Rob Miles, head of the NCA’s Manchester border investigation team said:
“These three men were involved in the conspiracy to import large quantities of heroin into the UK.
“I have no doubt that had they not been stopped, those drugs would have ended up being sold on UK streets.
“Heroin is an extremely dangerous substance which fuels criminality, from the organised gangs and dealers involved in making and distributing it, to the street addicts who turn to crime to pay for their habit.
“We will continue to work with Border Force and Police to disrupt organsied criminals and prevent them from bringing illegal drugs in to the UK through Liverpool and other ports and airports.”
Tony McMullin, regional director of Border Force North Region, said: “This was an intricate concealment but thanks to the vigilance of our Border Force officers in Liverpool we helped stop these dangerous drugs finding their way to the streets of the UK.
“Smugglers will always be developing new and more elaborate methods to try to get their illegal products into the UK and detections such as this are a real testament to our officers’ expertise.
“Working closely with law enforcement colleagues at the NCA we are determined to prevent drug trafficking and put those responsible behind bars.”