Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Government drugs counsellor jailed for running heroin empire

A Government drugs counsellor who became a key player in a multi-million-pound heroin smuggling operation after falling on hard times has been jailed.

Law graduate Mahfooz Ahmed, of Halifax, West Yorkshire, was a respected figure who carried out research for the Government into substance abuse and even visited schools to talk about the dangers of drugs.

However he became embroiled in drug dealing after getting into financial difficulty, suffering a catastrophic fall from grace.
Busted: Ahmed went on the run when customs officers found heroin worth £1.36million in a suitcase he had been carrying (file photo)

When customs officers found heroin worth £1.36million in a suitcase he had been carrying, 

Ahmed became a fugitive and went on the run for five years, committing further offences while he was a wanted man.

He eventually became the subject of a European Arrest Warrant over his involvement in a major conspiracy to smuggle the class A drug from Turkey into Britain via mainland Europe.

The scale of Ahmed's decline was revealed at Leeds Crown Court where he was jailed for 12 years after admitting possession of heroin with intent to supply.

Prosecutor Paul Valder told the court Ahmed, who also worked on behalf of the Department of Health in taxpayer-funded schemes to help tackle social problems caused by drugs, came to the authorities' attention in March 2005.

An accomplice of Ahmed's, who has not been identified, dropped a suitcase containing 50 blocks of high-purity heroin in a Halifax street and fled after he spotted customs officers. Minutes earlier, the man had been travelling in a Skoda driven by Ahmed.

The court heard police had been carrying out an undercover investigation targeting one of Ahmed's associates, suspected criminal Babar Hussain, whose whereabouts remain unknown.

Customs officers later searched Ahmed's home and found mobile phone records which eventually linked him to other drug dealers.

Officers also found that he and Hussain had taken several flights to and from Amsterdam during the latter half of 2004, with Ahmed usually paying.

Ahmed remained at large until October last year when he was arrested in a supermarket car park in north London. At the time he was wanted by police in Belgium for offences committed between September 2007 and March 2009.

In November 2009 a court in Brussels had sentenced him to five years in prison in his absence after hearing he had been a conduit on behalf of a dealer organising shipments of heroin worth 11m pounds from Turkey to the UK via the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Two shipments contained a total of 144kg of heroin - about 12 times as much as that recovered in the suitcase in Halifax.

From June 2000 until September 2001, Ahmed had worked as a project co-ordinator on behalf of the Department of Health and the University of Central Lancashire, researching drug use in parts of Halifax among minority groups.

At the time, he said: 'I hope I can contribute to the fight against drug misuse.'

He graduated in accountancy and law in 2000 and his first job was as a community drugs worker in 2001 where he compiled the report on the needs of drugs users in Halifax's Asian community.

He said at the time: 'We want to raise awareness of the dangers of drugs around this part of Halifax and I will be writing a report with recommendations on how the problem can be tackled.

'I will be talking to people on the streets, finding out the scale of the problem, and what help drug users do get.' 
Recorder Jonathan Bennett, sentencing, told Ahmed it was 'appalling' that he had been willing to become involved in the drugs trade after seeing its effects first hand.

He said: 'You went into schools, motivating young people, telling them about drugs and the effect they were going to have on their community.'

Louise Wilson, defending Ahmed, said he knew he had been 'immensely stupid' and had brought shame on his family.
Ahmed claimed he had run away because he had been threatened and feared for his life.

Malcolm Bragg, assistant director of the UK Border Agency, said: 'Drug smuggling is a vile business that exploits the misery of others for an easy profit. Heroin destroys the lives not only of users, but also their families and the surrounding community.'

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