A Bradford man has been jailed for 15 years for his role in a £1 million international heroin smuggling operation.

Anwar Bashir, 43, of Park Lane, Little Horton, was described as the right hand man to the gang boss, Tahir Mahmood.

The pair organised the importation of large quantities of heroin into the UK and mainland Europe from Pakistan, using sophisticated concealment of the drugs within suitcases, books and specially adapted clothing.

Birmingham Crown Court heard the gang was involved in five importations, which began with the corruption of officials at Karachi or Lahore airports in Pakistan, to allow drugs to bypass security procedures.

The heroin was then taken by couriers, via interconnecting flights, to Europe.

The gang operated in the UK, Holland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Dubai and Pakistan.

During four of the importations, high purity heroin was seized.

Bashir was involved in three heroin importations valued at between £695,000 and £834,000.

He was convicted by a jury of three offences of heroin trafficking, after a six-week trial in May.

Mahmood, 53, of Stourbridge, West Midlands, pleaded guilty to five heroin trafficking offences and was jailed for 16 years.

He controlled multiple couriers in Spain who imported heroin into the UK and other European countries on flights from Pakistan.

The well-established international network of heroin traffickers was dismantled by investigators from the National Crime Agency.

Bashir and Mahmood travelled extensively across Europe to recruit and meet couriers but were stopped in their tracks following the multi-agency NCA-led surveillance operation.

Analysis of mobile phone data pinpointed their locations at the time of the heroin seizures and showed they were in contact with each other as well as the couriers.

Paul Risby, NCA Branch Commander, said: “We proved Mahmood and Bashir were linked to seizures totalling 46 kilos but I believe the network dismantled could have been responsible for many more importations – bringing misery, harm and violence to communities in Bradford, Birmingham and other cities.

“Tackling the supply of drugs on a global level and protecting our borders are priorities for the NCA and its partners. We targeted the couriers one by one and obtained the evidence that led to the downfall of these two men. They are now behind bars where they belong.”

An additional 49 kilos of heroin was seized as a result of the wider operation. Five couriers were prosecuted separately and received jail sentences ranging from five to 12 years.

Mohammed Mushtaq, 44, of Raven Terrace, Lower Grange, Bradford, had been previously jailed for 12 years after pleading guilty to heroin trafficking.

He was stopped at Manchester Airport in March 2011, after flying in from Karachi with 21 kilos of heroin hidden in hardback books in his luggage.

Mushtaq, a courier, was caught as part of the wider police operation.

The NCA operation was supported by the Crown Prosecution Service’s Organised Crime Division, West Midlands Police, the Spanish Guardia Civil and other international law enforcement agencies.

Andy Young, from the Organised Crime Division at the CPS, said: “Those who trade in illegal drugs bring misery to our communities and the CPS is determined to act against them."