“Muhammad thought he was a criminal mastermind"
Akhlaq Muhammad, aged 42, of Blackburn, was jailed for six years for smuggling approximately £1.5 million worth of heroin into the UK.
Preston Crown Court heard he smuggled the Class A drugs inside Minion balloons, gardening gloves and other items.
It is said that Muhammad conspired with people in Pakistan, Dubai and Birmingham to smuggle the heroin.
He was complicit in the drugs smuggling network but claims he was exploited by others, despite being paid £2,000.
Muhammad said he was not aware of the scale of the operation and only agreed to receive the parcels as threats had been made to his family.
Muhammad became involved in February 2021.
Up to September 2022, 11, separate packages were sent to addresses linked to Muhammad, including addresses in Canterbury Street and Whitebirk Road, Blackburn.
Further parcels were sent to an address in Birmingham, with Muhammad travelling to the city to retrieve them.
Different spellings of Muhammad’s name were used on each of the parcels.
In February 2021, 41kg of heroin were delivered to the Canterbury Street address.
The following month, law enforcement officers in Karachi detected 700g of heroin concealed within a 1.1kg parcel of plastic bags, also destined for Canterbury Street.
In April 2021, German officials stopped a package containing coffee machines. Inside was 5kg of heroin.
June 2021 saw Pakistani officials intercept a parcel of envelopes and found it to contain 200g of heroin, addressed to ‘Ikhlaq Muhammad’.
In October 2021, a DHL consignment, labelled ‘gift pack kitchenware’ was intercepted, which also contained heroin.
In April 2022, Muhammad travelled to Birmingham to receive more parcels, although some of them were stopped at Birmingham Airport, including one which had heroin concealed in garments.
Later that month, a shipment of gardening gloves destined for Muhammad’s Whitebirk Road address was intercepted, and found in it was 1.13kg of heroin hidden within 33 of the pairs.
On April 30, a further 900g of heroin was discovered in another package containing gardening gloves.
A carpet weighing 11.92kg was stopped on its way to Birmingham, with heroin sewn into the fabric.
In September, a UPS parcel containing balloons was stopped at East Midlands Airport. Within the balloons were plastic gloves, with each glove containing heroin.
Two days later, a similar parcel was intercepted, with 23 of the balloons found to contain plastic gloves which concealed the drugs.
The total amount of heroin seized was 11.24kg and in the UK, this equated to a wholesale value of around £198,000.
If the heroin would have been broken down into £10 street deals, this would have equated to £749,260.
The heroin was 70% pure, much higher than the purity level found on UK streets, so when mixed with a bulking agent would have doubled the amount, bringing the total street value of the heroin to 22.47kg and £1,498,520.
Muhammad’s home was searched and officers found a “drug dealer burner phone” and a large cardboard box containing balloons which were “similar to those seized containing heroin”.
He was subsequently charged with and later admitted conspiracy to fraudulently evade a prohibition on the importation of a Class A drug.
Muhammad was jailed for six years.
After sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Tom Edmondson said:
“Muhammad thought he was a criminal mastermind and could outsmart the authorities by importing large amounts of heroin hidden in balloons and other items.
“Thanks to the hard work and diligence of the investigation team, we have managed to put a pin in Muhammad’s sophisticated criminal network.
“I welcome the sentence handed down by the court and I hope it sends out a clear message to any organised crime network that East Lancashire is not a safe place to operate.
“We will identify you, we will uncover the evidence against you and we will put you before the courts.”