Issued on 16/3/18 at 4:15 p.m.
A plot to flood the streets of Leicestershire and the UK with more than £10m worth of class A drugs has been foiled by the police in the biggest such seizure in Leicestershire’s history.
Members of an organised crime gang, based in Leicester, imported heroin and cocaine hidden in purpose-made secret compartments of furniture, children’s clothes and industrial bolts to business addresses in the city.
But their plan to distribute the drugs nationwide was interrupted by an investigation led by detectives from the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU), working in liaison with the National Crime Agency and with law enforcement agencies in the Netherlands, Pakistan and in France.
The intelligence-led investigation was launched in September 2016 after the Metropolitan Police uncovered a batch of the bolts. Following examination, it was found that they had been drilled hollow, and heroin was found to be hidden inside.
Following months of detailed enquiries, five of the gang were arrested in January last year, with a further two arrested last July.
The trial of all seven began some ten weeks ago at Leicester Crown Court. During the trial one of the gang - Ayaz Hussain – pleaded guilty to supply. A second - Paulvinder Randhawa – pleaded guilty to supply at the start of the trial, but denied an importation charge.
The other five – all charged with conspiracy to import - continued to protest their innocence.
But today (Friday) the jury found five men guilty, and they will be sentenced on Monday 26 March at Leicester Crown Court.
The five are:
• Jagdish Patel, 51, of The Firs, Syston, - found guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine and heroin and conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin.
• Talib Hussain, 59, of Bordesley Green, Birmingham - found guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine and heroin and conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin.
• Ravindra Modha, 55, of Sandiacre Drive, Thurmaston – found guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine.
• Paulvinder Randhawa, 47, of Marsh Way, Wembley - pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin at the start of the trial.
• Ayaz Hussain, 28, of Fryant Way, Wembley - pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine during the trial.
During the course of the investigation it was established that the five were involved in arranging, managing and overseeing the importation of drugs as well as their distribution within the UK to be sold on the streets.
The network organised the importation of 60kg of cocaine, with a street value of £9.6m, as well as 1kg of heroin with a street value of £316,000. A further shipment of cocaine and heroin, organised by the group, was seized in France, while a shipment of heroin, destined for the UK, was seized in Pakistan.
The illegal activities undertaken by the group were overseen by Patel and Hussain. The pair made multiple trips to the Netherlands and Pakistan to organise the importation of the drugs, with the help of Modha.
Randhawa took packages of heroin to London, while Ayaz Hussain was involved in moving packages of cocaine to London, where they were to be sold on.
Detective Inspector Harry Rai was EMSOU’s Senior Investigating Officer in the case. He said: “The group had a clear structure, with each individual undertaking specific roles. They were well-practiced, and used encrypted devices with which to communicate.
“Patel and Talib Hussain, with the support of Modha, were drug traffickers of a serious calibre. They were well connected in their trade to import a regular supply of drugs from Pakistan and the Netherlands.
“They devised a plan to conceal the drugs in chairs, bolts and children’s clothes to try and make it seem like the deliveries being brought to Leicester were part of their everyday business.
“But despite their very careful planning, and the use of encrypted devices, investigative work carried out over a number of months led us to uncovering 62kg of cocaine and heroin with a total value of around £10m, which was destined for the streets of Leicester, Leicestershire and beyond. This was the biggest haul known in Leicestershire, and one of the biggest drugs supplies ever uncovered by EMSOU.
“In my 22 years in policing and 14 years being part of serious and organised crime investigations, I haven’t come across anything on this scale.
“Patel and Talib Hussain in particular were not small-time dealers. They were interested in dealing on a large scale and their operations had been going on for some years.
“A key part of bringing these men to justice was the excellent working relationship that EMSOU was able to develop with our counterparts in the Netherlands, France and Pakistan as well as working with our colleagues at the National Crime Agency.
“This partnership meant that we were able to prevent such a large amount of drugs from reaching the UK’s streets and causing misery to countless numbers of people.”
• After the same trial, Suresh Pattani, 69, of Colby Drive, Thurmaston was found not guilty of conspiracy to cocaine and heroin; Chandrakant Chavda 60, of Oakland Avenue, Leicester was found not guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine; and Paulvinder Randhawa was found not guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine.