"This group attempted to smuggle over £2.49 million worth of heroin"
Three relatives who were part of a drugs gang were jailed for a total of 45 years on August 9, 2019, for importing at least £2.49 million worth of heroin into the UK from Pakistan.
The Luton and Birmingham-based men smuggled the Class A drugs through UK airports hidden within motorcycle gloves, equine dentistry equipment and boxing gloves.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) seized 13 packages containing five kilograms of high purity heroin.
They estimate a further 14 kilograms were imported based on records showing previous parcels linked to the crime group.
Sultan Mahmood Butt, aged 37, Nibeel Saghir, aged 34, Rizwan Ahmed, aged 34, and Denise Ellis, aged 46, were first investigated by the NCA in June 2015.
Border Force officers at Stansted Airport had seized nearly three kilos of heroin concealed in cobb elevators, which is a piece of surgical equipment for the spine.
Luton-based Butt was identified as the leader of the drugs gang. He was responsible for organising the importations from Pakistan.
Saghir acted as the middleman who made sure that the drugs were delivered to various addresses in Luton and Birmingham. Ahmed and Ellis assisted him.
In 2015, Ahmed and Ellis were arrested after several of the intercepted parcels were discovered to be destined for their home addresses.
The shipments were seized at Stansted, East Midlands and Heathrow Airports, as well as a parcel delivery depot in Tamworth.
Butt’s phone number was connected to the packages and he was also arrested. He had sent a photo showing the address for an impending importation that was intercepted at Heathrow.
Analysis of phone records showed that Saghir was also involved and he was arrested in January 2016. On the date of an attempted drugs delivery, there were 12 calls between Butt and Saghir within one 13-minute period.
The four drugs gang members were in contact with each other at key times around each importation. They usually communicated using burner phones.
After Ahmed’s arrest in June 2015, Ellis sent a text to an unidentified number which read:
“Txt me wen ready to pick up. Best collect it tonite then I can’t get blamed for anything.”
In September 2017, Ellis pleaded guilty. Butt, Saghir and Ahmed were found guilty in July 2019.
At Birmingham Crown Court, Sultan Butt was jailed for 20 years. Nibeel Saghir received 15 years in prison. Rizwan Ahmed was jailed for 10 years. Sentencing has been delayed for Denise Ellis.
Matt Horne, NCA Deputy Director for Investigations, said:
“Drug trafficking doesn’t always happen in one big shipment. This group attempted to smuggle over £2.49 million worth of heroin little and often through the post, wrongly thinking they could avoid detection.
“Drug trafficking is a major source of revenue for crime groups, many of whom are involved in multiple crime types; adapting their methods to law enforcement responses.
“Working with Border Force and other partners we are committed to doing all we can to make sure drug smugglers are stopped and, ultimately, crime doesn’t pay.”
Dan Scully, Border Force Deputy Director Intelligence Operations, said:
“Drug smuggling is a serious crime causing real harm to the UK. Those engaged in it will always look for new ways to evade detection.”
“Border Force’s challenge is to stay one step ahead of those who seek to harm our communities.
“In this case, concealed heroin was detected by our diligent and professional Border Force officers at a number of ports.
“Our intelligence teams established a link between the various attempts to import illegal narcotics into the UK and that evidence supported the dismantling of an organised crime group.”