“This was a gross breach of trust."
Arfan Ullah, aged 27, of Didsbury, received an 18-month community order after he organised a heist from Manchester Airport which saw high-value items taken.
Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard that he had the access code through his previous job to a unit where lost property not claimed in the airport remained for the long-term.
The unit was protected by a keypad and Ullah had been given the code just a month before the heist in March 2019.
The company which managed the lost property, Excess Baggage Ltd, had dismissed Ullah shortly before the burglary because his performance in his probationary period was “less than satisfactory”.
On March 10, 2019, the last authorised person left the unit at around 4:45 pm and made sure it was locked.
Helena Williams, prosecuting, said:
“The next morning, one of the other staff members had reason to go into the unit only to find a number of items had been disturbed and a search took place.
“CCTV was recovered from outside the storeroom and it showed that during the evening, two entries were made, one at 10:07 pm and another at 1:21 am on March 11.
“The first entry, two males entered the room as they had access to the code, they got in and took a number of items of luggage.
“Then at 1:21 am, three males returned to the room using the suitcases from the earlier entry.”
A taxi driver said he had taken three men to the airport shortly before 10 pm. Two left but the third stayed in the taxi.
He said that the others returned after 20 minutes carrying luggage.
From the CCTV, Ateeb Qaiser was spotted entering the storage unit on two occasions.
Nikash Sultan was seen with Qaiser and the other men at the airport before entering a taxi and going to an ATM.
Ullah did not enter the unit, but in messages obtained by the police, it was evident he was “planning” the heist.
An audit was later carried out and it was discovered that a “large number” of high-value items were missing but the exact value is unknown.
The audit also confirmed that the security was “lax”, regulations were “not carried out” and that they “couldn’t rule out that pilfering was carried out by the staff”.
From Ullah’s men, there was regular contact with the other men.
In one message, Ullah said: “Yo, where that shop that buys everything.”
The messages continued, with Ullah asking when they were returning, and Sultan offering to pick Qaiser up.
The prosecutor added that this was a “clear breach of trust”.
Ullah had no previous convictions while Qaiser and Sultan both have previous convictions.
The three men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a burglary.
In mitigation for Sultan, David Morton said the heist had weighed heavily on his client and caused him anxiety.
For Ullah, Hunter Gray said his client was “deeply ashamed” of his actions and a pre-sentence report concluded that he was immature at the time of the offences.
Mr Gray added: “It found there were underlying issues in regards to gambling and the misuse of alcohol.
“He is ashamed for himself but also ashamed as his family don’t appreciate this sort of conduct.
“This is the first and last time you will see him before these courts.”
Judge Tina Landale said: “This was a gross breach of trust.
“There was a high value of items stolen, though it had not been possible to identify the value of the property, but a large amount of items were taken.
“It’s clear you had been involved and have committed and planned the offence.”
Ullah received an 18-month community order, 220 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £800 compensation.
Nikash Sultan, aged 29, of Birmingham, was handed an 18-month community order, 10 days of rehabilitation activity requirements including a Thinking Skills Programme, along with 150 hours unpaid work and he was also ordered to pay £800 compensation.
Ateeb Qaiser, aged 28, of Fallowfield, will be sentenced on December 17, 2021.