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16 June 2016, 14:31
A gang who supplied drugs on "an industrial scale" in Birmingham have been jailed for a total of more than 100 years.
Detectives uncovered drug safe houses, cannabis factories and an extensive chain of dealer phones allocated names such as ‘The T Line’ used to take orders and even issue text advertisements.
Shaymas Ulhaq (pictured), from Weston Road in Handsworth, was identified as the kingpin who oversaw six cannabis grows – including one with a £150,000 yield operating from the back of a tyre firm in Erdington – and managed a group of drug runners and farmers.
When officers stopped the 32-year-old in a car on 22 July 2014 he was wearing a diamond encrusted ring and a jewel-laden Audemars Piguet watch, while £1,000 in cash was found in one of his pockets.
He claimed to be a successful car dealer – but analysis of his phone showed regular contact with other numbers linked to the cartel including texts issuing orders and instructions showing he was directing the enterprise.
Other lead players in the network – which police proved had operated for at least 14 months from March 2014 to May 2015 – included (pic clockwise from top left) Masoud Ali, Mohammed Rahman-Harries, brothers Narinder and Sandeep Kandola, Azim Thakur and Wayne O Connor.
Officers working on the case carried out a series of car stops and house raids netting drugs, dealer paraphernalia and tens of phones that were connected through shared messages relating to drug dealing and supply.
And at Birmingham Crown Court this week, 15 people were jailed for a total of 101 years for drug dealing, including an 18-year term for Ulhaq who was found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to supply heroin, cocaine and cannabis.
Ali (32), from Wills Street in Lozells, and 22-year-old Rahman-Harries from Brunswick Road, Handsworth, admitted the same offence and were handed sentences of 11 and nine years respectively.
Narinder (35) and Sandeep Kandola (34) from Stanmore Road in Edgbaston and 30-year-old Azim Thakur from Cuthbern Road, Winson Green, were imprisoned for 12, 11 and 10 years having been found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Wayne O’Connor (39), of no fixed address, admitted the same charge and was put behind bars for seven-and-a-half years.
Several other people were convicted of running cannabis factories.
Jamie Hadley (24), from Harcourt Road, Erdington, Lee Williams (32), from Twickenham Road, Kingstanding, and 35-year-old Duane Butlin, of no fixed address, denied conspiracy to supply cannabis but were jailed for 60, 48 and 12 months having been found guilty.
Five other people admitted supplying the class B drug, including brothers Adam (27) and Stephen (28) McGuinness – from Warren Farm Road in Kingstanding – who were both jailed for three years.
Shazad Hussain (31) from Angelsey Street, Mobasser Hussain (30) from Wills Street and 26-year-old Omar Ayaz from Burbury Street – all in Lozells – were handed prison sentences of 42, 27 and 12 months respectively. All eight are pictured clockwise from top left.
Detective Inspector Ben West, from West Midlands Police Force CID, said: “This was a sophisticated system of drug trafficking featuring a chain of command… it turned over hundreds of thousands of pounds in the space of 14 months.
“The judge commented that distribution of such drugs can have ‘catastrophic results’ and ruin countless lives.
“Ulhaq and his co-conspirators were making huge sums of money out of other people’s misery and flaunting that wealth. When Ulhaq was stopped he was wearing a watch valued in excess of what many hard-working people would fail to earn in a year.
“Local officers in Birmingham acted on intelligence provided by their communities to identify the key players and help us understand the scale of the operation.
“It was a great team effort and collectively we’re pleased that these drug dealers have been handed lengthy jail terms. We suspect other people may be connected to the network - we will be coming after them.”