Three Luton men have been jailed for a total of 17 years for trying to smuggle heroin in a delivery of mini footballs.
The kilo of drugs had a potential street value of up to £200,000.
They were seized on Christmas Day last year after officials from the UK Border Force intercepted a package from Pakistan.
The delivery, destined for an address in Luton, contained 180 mini footballs but officials’ suspicions were aroused when they noticed a lump on one of the footballs.
Of the 180 footballs, 17 were found to be concealing a substance, which was later confirmed to be heroin.
Beds Police launched an investigation and on December 30 Sarfraz Asif, 34, of Wingate Road, Luton, was arrested at the address where the package was destined for on suspicion with importing a controlled class A drug.
Two further arrests were then made in March. Shamiraz Khan, 33, of Highbury Road, Luton, and Syed Haider, 35, of Asburnham Road, Luton, were charged with importing a controlled Class A drug. Khan and Haider pleaded guilty and Asif was found guilty following a trial.
Haider and Khan were sentenced to six years, and Asif was sentenced to five years.
Det Insp Paul Baron of Beds Police said: “This is a fantastic example of how we can work with our partner agencies in order to fight crime and protect people.
“The initial work carried out by the UK Border Force to intercept the drugs and subsequent investigation undertook by our officers has led to three calculating drug dealers being locked away, and prevented a large quantity of dangerous drugs from being distributed in the streets.
“The heroin could have been cut down and mixed with other substances to make two kilos of perilous substances.”