A man who imported heroin with a potential street value of £22 million into the UK from Pakistan by hiding the drugs in boxes of plastic carrier bags has been jailed for 20 years.
After two drugs consignments were intercepted at Heathrow Airport in February 2020, a National Crime Agency investigation found that Arfan Mirza, 42, of Common Lane in Birmingham, was behind the extensive drug smuggling enterprise.
The consignments, listed as containing ‘shopping bags’ from Pakistan, were inspected by Border Force officers and found to contain a total of 20 kilos of heroin.
NCA officers probed Mirza’s phone data and business records held by courier companies. They discovered he was behind the importation of 30 similar consignments, bringing in others to accept deliveries at their addresses.
Videos found on Mirza’s phone showed him handling the drugs and testing the purity of the heroin.
A search of his home found parts of the carrier bags which had been used as a cover load as well as mobile phones and SIM cards, the numbers of which could be linked to contact details on the consignments.
In subsequent interviews with NCA officers, Mirza claimed an unknown person agreed to reduce his gambling debts by £1,000 if he allowed a parcel to be delivered to his house.
Analysts at the NCA believe Mirza imported a total of 220 kilos of heroin between March 2019 and February 2020 with a potential street value of £22 million.
Mirza was arrested in February 2020 for conspiring to import controlled substances into the UK.
During his trial, Mirza admitted his involvement in the offences and that previous parcels had included heroin. He also admitted collecting the drugs and then forwarding them on to others involved in the supply chain.
He was convicted yesterday (16 February) following a seven week trial at Birmingham Crown Court and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment today (17 February)
Judge Heidi Kubik KC described Mirza as head of the drugs operation in the UK, and said he had played a pivotal role in the success of the illegal activity.
She described Mirza’s lack of remorse and said he had only provided a self-serving account into how he became involved.
NCA Operations Manager Rick Mackenzie said:
“Mirza concocted a determined and sophisticated plot to smuggle huge quantities of this dangerous class A drug into the UK, starting with dummy deliveries in an attempt to ensure his efforts would be successful.
“At various points in his trial, Mirza has belligerently insisted this was a victimless crime, but importations like these fuel the criminal exploitation of young people through county lines as well as gang-related violence impacting communities in the UK.
“The NCA works relentlessly in the UK and around the world to protect the public from serious and organised crime.”
Katherine Wilson, Regional Director Border Force Heathrow, said:
“Thanks to the brilliant work by Border Force Officers at Heathrow, these dangerous drugs were stopped from infiltrating our communities. This seizure, and others like it, highlight our determination to tackle the illegal drug trade and together with the NCA and partners, we will continue to protect our borders from those who seek to cause harm.”