October 7, 2013
The international drugs ring planned to flood UK streets with the drug, imported from Pakistan, in one of the largest ever drug smuggling plots uncovered in the UK.
The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) traced the criminal network to the West Midlands and spent months gathering intelligence on suspected members – which included a husband and wife team – in 2009.
The three-year operation, called Project No Deal, intercepted the £26 million 1,036 kg of heroin – which held a street value of £306 million.
It is one of the largest ever drug smuggling plots ever uncovered in the UK.
The intelligence-led operation started in June 2009 when a shipment of heroin hidden inside bags of chilli powder was intercepted at Leeds Bradford Airport after it arrived from Pakistan.
Officials managed to use the address information – even though it was false – to identify suspects in the West Midlands and Pakistan.
Further enquiries led to a series of seizures of increasingly large amounts as the gang became more audacious in their smuggling attempts.
Officers and border officials swooped in seven different locations at Felixstowe, Tilbury Docks and addresses across Birmingham between April 2011 and August 2012.
Customs officers found heroin stashed inside shipments of vegetables, bed-linen and even in deliveries of sanitary products.
Further raids then found drugs cash stashed inside cars after meetings between key players were caught on secret cameras.
Eventually, kingpin Mohammed Farooq, 47, was caught alongside two Pakistani associates after SOCA traced a massive 263kg load of heroin to a warehouse he owned.
Farooq, from Solihull, West Midlands., was jailed for 29 years in June after he admitted organising the 263 kilo shipment of heroin.
He was captured on undercover surveillance footage handing boxes of cash to couriers in supermarket car parks.
Wife Catherine Farooq, 51, the final member of the ring, was jailed at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday for money laundering.
The court heard Farooq had used the drugs money to fund his daughters’ private school education – and his wife had splashed out on a new Mercedes.