Guilty: Gang smuggled £3.5m drugs from Jamaica in sweet potato deliveries
- Credit: National Crime Agency
Three members of an organised crime group have been found guilty of smuggling drugs with a street value of £3.5m from Jamaica in deliveries of sweet potatoes.
Attiq Ur Rehman, 41, of Stafford Road, East Ham; Sarbit Chumber, 48, of Vicarage Farm Road, Hounslow and Kashif Mushtaq, 38, of Heaton Close, Romford, were all found guilty of Class A and B drug importation today - April 1 - at Southwark Crown Court.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) began an investigation in October 2018, when police seized nearly 35kg of cannabis from a car in Hackney.
It was found in sealed packages inside cardboard boxes used to transport sweet potatoes.
One of those arrested over the haul was Mushtaq, who was found to have links with Jamaica.
Three months later, 94 packages containing cocaine and cannabis were found in another load of sweet potatoes on a flight that landed at Gatwick Airport from Kingston, Jamaica.
The drugs weighed 85.5kg and had a street value of more than £3.5m.
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NCA teams tracked the second load of drugs to an industrial estate in Hayes, where the boxes were seen being sorted - and officers arrested Rehman as he took a handover of the boxes in Kingsbury Road, Colindale.
Footage was played to the court of him trying to flee as cops swooped on him.
Chumber, who had been in phone contact with Rehman, was arrested minutes later at Spitalfields Market.
Analysis of their phone messages led officers to Mushtaq, who had been released under investigation following his arrest in 2018.
The NCA suspected Mushtaq - who was in Pakistan at the time that the drugs were seized - had played a leading role in the operation, and he was arrested when he returned to the UK.
The trio were found guilty of drug smuggling offences in relation to the January 2019 shipment, following a trial.
Mushtaq and two other men were found not guilty in relation to the October 2018 seizure.
Jon Eatwell, from the NCA’s anti-corruption unit, said: “This crime group were well organised and established a system that enabled them to smuggle drugs into the UK through legitimate services, where every man had his role in the conspiracy.
“The drugs they trafficked would have been sold across London and could have fuelled further crime and violence."
Sentencing is at Southwark Crown Court on April 21.