A drugs gang who were part of a conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs throughout the north west have been jailed for a total of more than 40 years, say police.
The sentences follow Operation Kellington, an investigation launched by police into the supply of cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin and cannabis and money laundering which began in May last year.
Detectives say the investigation initially focused on Blackburn man Ibrar Ashraf who was distributing around 1kg of cocaine every week across east Lancashire.
It soon became clear to them that he obtained the drugs from Abid Hussain, from Rochdale, who was the main supplier to Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Yorkshire.
Further investigations revealed that Hussain’s uncle Yasrab Mahmood acted as a full time courier who worked for both Ashraf and Hussain, while Mariam Akhtar, Hussain’s partner, passed drugs on to him and received money from him when Hussain was not there.
Ovil Bailey and Muhindo Hokoko, both from Leeds, purchased drugs from Hussain after he was introduced to them by Ashraf.
Police discovered the network when phone records and observations revealed that Mahmood travelled to Blackburn on May 24, 2016 to meet Ibrar Ashraf. This was one of many of Mahmood’s journeys to Blackburn where it is suspected drugs or money were exchanged.
On May 27, 2016 Hokoko and Bailey travelled from Leeds to Rochdale to buy a significant amount of drugs. They were seen by offiers to meet with Hussain on Caldershaw Road, Rochdale.
Police say that in June 2016 Mahmood travelled to Newton Heath in Manchester on several occasions to meet Liam Collins, where it is thought drugs and money were exchanged.
On August 15, Hussain and his partner Akhtar were seen returning to their flat in Rochdale after spending three nights at a luxury hotel in London. They also spent thousands of pounds of cash on designer clothes and shoes in Harrods.
Later that day, Mahmood, who worked as a taxi driver in Rochdale, was seen visiting Hussain’s flat before leaving with a bag. He was stopped by officers who discovered that the bag contained 116g of crack cocaine, 81.9g of cocaine and 371g of heroin. The street value of the drugs was estimated at around £40,000.
Following the stop, police attended Hussain and Akhtar’s flat and searched the premises. There were drugs and cash found in virtually every room of the flat. They found a total of 23kg of Class A drugs and nearly £164,000 in cash.
The drugs, which included cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin, had a street value of around £3 million.
Five of the members were handed their sentences when they appeared at Preston Crown Court on Friday, August 11.
Abid Hussain, 28, of Meadowcroft Lane, Rochdale had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, two counts of converting criminal property and one count of possessing criminal property. He was sentenced to 16 and a half years imprisonment for his role in the conspiracy.
Ibrar Ashraf, 32, of Whitewell Place, Blackburn and Yasrab Mahmood, 46, of Redcross Street, Rochdale both pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and were sentenced to nine years imprisonment.
Liam Collins, 38, of Barkworth Walk pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and two counts of possession of Class A drugs with intent. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment.
Mariam Akhtar was given three and a half years imprisonment after she was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, two counts of converting criminal property and one count of possessing criminal property following an earlier trial.
Ovil Bailey, 42, of Harehills Avenue, Leeds previously pleaded guilty to possession of a Class A drug with intent and Possession of a Class B drug with intent. Muhindo Hokoko, 41, of Third Avenue, Leeds pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled drug of Class A with intent. Both were sentenced at an earlier date and received sentences of six months suspended for 18 months and 80 hours unpaid work.
DI John Roy of Lancashire Constabulary’s Serious Organised Crime Unit said: “This operation uncovered a network that was distributing Class A drugs throughout the north west. It soon became clear early on in the operation that the network spanned wider than just Lancashire and it shows that we are committed to tackling cross border criminality.
“At the top of the network was Hussain who supplied the drugs to others in the conspiracy. Along with his partner Akhtar, they laundered the proceeds of their illegal activity, spending large amounts of cash during a shopping trip to London before we descended on their flat and seized over £160,000 in cash.
“As a result of our investigation, we have taken significant quantities of crack cocaine, cocaine and heroin worth a street value of nearly £3 million off our streets.
“These sentences send out a clear message to those involved in the supply of drugs. We will not tolerate it in our region and we are determined to bring these criminals before the courts.”