Five Luton men have been sentenced to a combined total of more than 83 years behind bars for their roles in conspiring to import and distribute firearms into the UK, following an investigation by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU). Five members of the organised crime group, headed by Muzaffer Ali, 39, of Maidenhall Road, were convicted following a 12-week trial in July.
At St Albans Crown Court today (Thursday) they were sentenced to the following:
- Muzaffer Ali, 39, of Maidenhall Road – found guilty of conspiracy to import guns and ammunition and of the transfer of guns and ammunition, sentenced to life imprisonment (22 years)
- Haroon Khatab, 41, of Jasmine Road – found guilty of conspiracy to import guns and ammunition, sentenced to a total of 19 years imprisonment
- Sajid Khan, 25, of Manx Close – found guilty of conspiracy to import guns and ammunition and of the transfer of guns and ammunition, sentenced to a total of 18 years imprisonment
- Khalid Hussain, 39, of Maidenhall Road – found guilty of conspiracy to import guns and ammunition, sentenced to a total of 17 years
- Faisal Mahmood, 20, of Maidenhall Road – pleaded guilty during the trial of the transfer of firearms and ammunition, sentenced to a total of seven years and 10 months
In March 2016 a number of guns and ammunition were recovered by police after they were supplied to a criminal group based in Leicester.
A joint surveillance operation between the Special Operations Units in East Midlands and the Eastern Region (EMSOU and ERSOU) evidenced the supply of three Hungarian FEG semi-automatic handguns and 21 rounds of ammunition by the Luton gang to the Leicester group.
ERSOU officers uncovered the fact that Ali, as head of the group, had been responsible for sourcing the weaponry in the Netherlands before using other members of the group to provide security, package and store firearms, collect money, and deliver the weapons to other criminal groups.
Dutch Police and the National Crime Agency were instrumental in supporting the investigation, leading to a multi-agency operation in which two members of the organised crime group were stopped at the border with the UK in Coquelles, France in May 2016. They were arrested after firearms were found hidden behind the dashboard of a hired Ford Mondeo estate.
During the trial, evidence was heard that the group had used more than 60 mobile phone numbers in a four month period, 18 of which were attributed to Muzaffer Ali.
Detective Sergeant James Panter from ERSOU, who led the case, said: “I am pleased that the sentences passed today reflect the severity of the crimes this organised gang were involved in.
“The profits and consequences of gun crime have far-reaching effects in the community, not least to mention the potential loss of life which could have been caused had we not managed to intercept these overseas arms transfers.
“ERSOU has worked closely with a number of agencies in order to achieve these results and I hope that the sentences send out a message to other organised crime groups – you will not get away with your highly dangerous and damaging actions.”
James Cable, Senior Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “Both cases involved substantial work by the Dutch authorities and National Crime Agency and a joint surveillance operation between the East Midlands and Eastern Region Special Operations Units. Mobile phone, automatic number plate recognition and police surveillance evidence along with the use of bank cards (to book flights, hotel rooms, Eurotunnel etc.) and hire cars were all used to successfully convict the gang.
“The impact on communities of illegal firearms is immense. The defendants were motivated by money, without a care for the potential misery their actions were causing to the lives of others.
“Thanks to a dedicated and detailed investigation followed by robust prosecutions, a substantial quantity of weaponry has been removed from the supply chain, these organised criminals have been removed from society, and the public has been made safe from their dangerous, harmful, and life destroying activities.
“These cases send out a clear message that the CPS and the police take these offences very seriously and anyone involved in the illegal firearms trade can expect to be prosecuted robustly. We will continue to work closely with our partners to ensure that persons involved in this kind of criminality are brought to justice.”
Three other defendants were found not guilty of all charges during the trial.