Mourner caught at Manchester Airport with £2m consignment of heroin
A £2m consignment of heroin was recovered from a suitcase at Manchester Airport belonging to a mourner returning from Pakistan.
The drugs were intercepted after a baggage handling error meant the case, which had been loaded at Lahore, missed its connecting flight from Abu Dhabi and arrived two days late.
Smuggler Hafiz Ali, 48, had travelled out to Pakistan to repatriate the body of a worshipper from his mosque who had died suddenly, Manchester Crown Court heard.
But during the month he was out there he was recruited into a plot to supply heroin to dealers in the UK.
After landing in Manchester and realising his baggage wasn’t on the carousel, frantic Ali made a series of trips from his home in West Yorkshire to Manchester in the desperate hope of recovering the drugs in the days afterwards.
Staff noted that he was sweating nervously, and he was eventually arrested minutes after the bag arrived, three days after he had arrived back in the UK.
Ali, of Cardigan Close, Batley, has now been jailed for seven-and-a-half years for conspiracy to import heroin, alongside his 29-year-old brother-in-law, Rafaqat Hussain, of Wakefield, who drove him to the airport in his attempts to get the drugs back.
Hussain, who has previous drug-dealing convictions, has been jailed for seven years.
Both men pleaded guilty to the offences, which dated back to April 2014, following a National Crime Agency investigation.
The bag contained 15kg of heroin, split into packages weighing roughly 2kg, with a 58 per cent purity.
Prosecutor Michael Maher said: “Heroin can be purchased in Pakistan for as little as £3,000 a kilo, but in the UK sold for between £25,000 and £35,000 a kilo. The wholesale value (of the consignment) was £420,000, with a street value of over £2m.”
Richard Vardon, defending Hafiz, claimed he was the ‘classic courier’, employed to take a risk for more sophisticated criminals for modest reward.
“He is a family man with four children - nothing in his background suggested he would get involved in any offence as serious as this. There’s no evidence he went out to Pakistan with the view he would import drugs on his return - he was recruited having gone there for genuine reasons.”
Mohammed Nawaz, defending Hussain, said of him: “He was ‘not involved in the wider conspiracy to profit from the sale of that heroin, and was not aware of the quantity being imported into this country.”
Rob Miles, head of the National Crime Agency’s Manchester border investigation team, said: “These men used a tragic event and the generosity of their community to fund their drug running.
“The heroin seized would have had a potential street value of over £2 million – no doubt Ali and Hussain knew there was a huge profit to be made.
“Working with our colleagues at Border Force we are determined to do all we can to disrupt international organised crime networks and prevent them using Manchester Airport to bring illegal drugs into the UK.”