Two Indian-origin brothers have pleaded guilty to participating in the activities of an organised crime group, which was involved in smuggling millions of pounds worth of illegal drugs into the UK via a series of front companies linked with the importation of chicken from the Netherlands.
Manjinder Singh Thakhar and Davinder Singh Thakhar pleaded guilty after being caught following an investigation by the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) and will be sentenced in January next year.
Two ringleaders of the Birmingham-based organised crime group, Wasim Hussain and Nazrat Hussain, have been jailed for a combined sentence of around 44 years after a trial at Birmingham Crown Court this week.
"Throughout the course of this investigation, which has gone on for more than three years, we have systematically dismantled an organised crime group that was involved in the importation and distribution of Class A drugs across the West Midlands," said Colin Williams, NCA Branch Operations Manager.
"As well as drugs, the gang also attempted to source firearms, presumably to be used to threaten others in support of their criminality. The investigation has uncovered links to criminal networks in London and the Netherlands, and our partnership with the Dutch police was crucial," he said.
On three occasions, heroin and cocaine worth around 5 million pounds was seized hidden in chicken shipments and the NCA said its investigators subsequently identified another 16 importations which they suspect contained drugs.
The importations began in June 2016 and continued into 2017. Following each of the first two seizures the crime group set up a new company to try and cover their tracks, using a new name to carry on.
They would use genuine shipping companies to move loads from Rotterdam in the Netherlands to distribution hubs where they would be collected by members of the group. The shipments were set up by Nazrat Hussain, who made regular trips over to the Netherlands to meet Dutch suppliers.
Following the interception of two chicken shipments, and the arrests of two gang members involved, the gang switched tactics. This time they used two corrupt baggage handlers to collect three kilos of high-purity cocaine off a flight from Brazil to Heathrow. But the NCA said it was watching their moves, and officers moved in to make arrests as one of the airport workers met Birmingham a taxi driver, Adnan Ahmed Malik, just outside the airport. Three kilograms of high-purity cocaine was found in a rucksack in the taxi.
After this drug smuggling route had been thwarted the Hussains moved back to their chicken method, and recruited Mohammed Shabir, a worker at a Birmingham-based meat supplier to help.
In June 2017, another shipment was dispatched from the Netherlands, but the drugs were removed by Dutch police, who were working with the NCA.
Wasim Hussain and Mohammed Shabir were arrested by NCA officers shortly afterwards. Nazrat Hussain was in the Netherlands at the time, but he was arrested by Dutch police and extradited back to the UK. Nazrat Hussain went on to plead guilty to three counts of conspiring to import Class A drugs.
"We worked our way through the group until we managed to reach the two men at the very top - Wasim Hussain and Nazrat Hussain. As we have shown in this case, the NCA will use the full range of its capabilities to comprehensively target and disrupt those involved in organised criminal activity," NCA's Colin Williams said.