Lancashire

'Guns and roses' gang jailed for importing £30m of drugs and guns

Flower boxes at Albion Mill unit used by the gang Image copyright National Crime Agency
Image caption Drugs were hidden in flower boxes by the gang which used a unit at Albion Mill in Accrington

A gang which used a Lancashire wholesale flower firm as cover for an international drug and gun-running operation has been jailed.

Seven men smuggled cocaine, heroin, cannabis, MDMA, amphetamine and firearms in lorries from the continent into the UK.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said it seized drugs and guns worth £30m.

The men were jailed for between 36 years and 27 months at Preston Crown Court.

The gang was charged with importation offences after four separate seizures in 2014.

Three were made at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Coquelles, France, and one in Accrington, where the flower wholesale firm was based at Albion Mill.

Image copyright National Crime Agency
Image caption All members of the gang were charged with importation offences

Sentences

  • Mohamed Imran Bhegani, 39, from Arnhem, Netherlands, was sentenced to 36 years after being found guilty of conspiring to import drugs and firearms
  • Sajid Osman, 44, of Bromley Street, Blackburn, was sentenced to 26 years after being found guilty of conspiring to import drugs and firearms
  • Nizami Esshak, 56, of Willows Lane, Accrington, was sentenced to seven years after admitting importation offences
  • Taimur Zahid, 28, of Egerton Road South, Chorlton Cum Hardy, Manchester, sentenced to 27 months after admitting importation offences
  • Husnain Farooq, 28, of Fox Street, Stockport, was sentenced to two years after admitting importation offences
  • Nigel Watson, 53, of Clunbury Road, Telford, was sentenced to 17 years after being found guilty of conspiring to import drugs
  • Benny Albert Planken, 31, of Streefkerk, Nethlands, sentenced to 11 years after being found guilty of conspiring to import drugs

NCA investigators and their Dutch counterparts linked all the importations to head of the group, Dutch national Mohammed Imran Bhegani. 39, and Sajid Osman, 44.

Bhegani had made all the arrangements, getting consignments delivered to premises in Albion Mill, Accrington, which was rented and operated by Osman and Nizami Esshak, 56.

NCA officers raided the unit on 26 August 2014. Taimur Zahid and Hussain Farooq arrived as "customers" to pick up drugs from the unit.

Investigators found three boxes containing flowers and 12 kilos of cannabis in their car.

More than 200 kilos of cannabis was seized from Albion Mill along with notebooks containing details of customers and quantities of drugs to supply.

Image copyright National Crime Agency
Image caption The gang used a secret compartment used to hide drugs in the truck during importation

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