The dealers are the latest to be jailed by Operation Costello – bringing its total jail sentences to 150 years.
Waseem Choudhry, Faizan Yaqoob and Fizan Khan, all from Luton, have been jailed for a total of 32-and-a-half years for their involvement in a network that used encrypted communications tool Encrochat to sell blocks of cocaine worth tens of thousands of pounds.
Choudhry, 34, of Oakley Gardens, was today (June 16) sentenced to 17 years behind bars for leading the organised crime group (OCG), which sold and distributed bulk amounts of the class A drug – often kilogrammes at a time.
After establishing that Choudhry was behind one of the handles on the platform, detectives arrested him at his Luton home in June 2020. They found the encrypted device stashed inside a hot water bottle, which was inside a dishwasher.
Expert analytical work showed his phone connecting to over 400 mobile phone masts between March and April 2020, notably ones near his home in Luton and a family address in Woking, Surrey.
Messages also exposed him speaking with other Encrochat users to arrange exchanges of blocks of cocaine, along with meetings to trade cash and discussions around the storage of vast quantities of drugs, while images showed blocks of pressed white powder believed to be cocaine.
His lieutenant, 32-year-old Yaqoob, of Kingsway, also had an Encrochat device, with the pair frequently discussing drug deals and cash exchanges.
Messages and images indicated Yaqoob travelled to Surrey, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and London to deliver or pick up cocaine or cash. He was jailed in April for nine years.
Fizan Khan, 26, of Beechwood Road, was jailed in May for six-and-a-half years for his involvement in the OCG, with messages on an Encrochat phone attributed to him discussing transporting a shipment of cocaine worth £38,000 to Leicester. On his arrest in June 2020, investigators found digital scales, cutting agents and cocaine at his home.
The Encrochat platform, which was used exclusively by networks of criminals, was dismantled in spring 2020 in the UK’s biggest ever law enforcement operation.
Detective Sergeant Scott Hannam, from Bedfordshire Police, said: “This was one of the first cases our Operation Costello team picked up and it’s really satisfying to see more drug dealers who operated in our county facing significant spells behind bars.
“Choudhry was a key link within a criminal network which worked to distribute vast quantities of cocaine across a wide area, which no doubt had a significant and harmful impact on a number of communities. It’s positive news that he and his associates will no longer be able to do this.
“This is the latest result for our dedicated Operation Costello team, and our specialist investigators continue to pore through data linked to a number of organised criminals who were involved in drug dealing and other serious offences. Our work doesn’t stop here; we’ll continue to work tirelessly to bring these people to justice.”
Anyone with information about drug dealing or wider organised crime activity can report it online or by calling 101.