A “ruthless” gun-smuggling gang has been jailed for a total of 100 years for a trans-Atlantic conspiracy to bring firearms into the UK from the United States.
Of 13 firearms imported into the UK by the Bradford-based ring, seven are unaccounted for. And none of the defendants has assisted the authorities in tracing them, Bradford Crown Court heard yesterday.
The Glock 26 pistols involved in the case, the court heard, are designed to be concealed and are “weapons of choice” for terrorists.
Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said the defendants had “completely lost sight of the proper moral, decent standard of behaviour expected in this country”.
Mohammed Tariq, 33, of Thornton Road, Bradford, and Atique Arif, 32, of Mannheim Road, Heaton, Bradford, were described by the judge as the “prime movers” in a “well planned, organised and determined” conspiracy.
They were both given 24-year extended sentences.
Over a 12-month period, police said, the gang was involved in smuggling 13 firearms into the country, concealing them within 27 packages containing electrical equipment including DVD players and portable radios.
The court heard the gang’s American seller had also, at one stage, received a request from Tariq for 18 fully automatic weapons.
Tariq and Arif, through their “captains” Mudassdar Iqbal and Feroz Khan, “found, corrupted and used others”, Judge Durham Hall said.
Iqbal, 29, of Dolby Avenue, Bradford Moor, was sentenced to 12 years and Feroz Khan, 24, of Killinghall Drive, Bradford, to ten years.
Scotdale Liburd, the gang’s American connection, was arrested and began co-operating with the authorities, the court heard.
Tariq and Arif continued the operation after they were themselves arrested, the court was told, and a police sting operation was mounted, involving the delivery of dummy packages.
Akbar Sultan, 24, of Baring Avenue, Bradford Moor, who was convicted by a jury of importation of firearms, had been recruited by Feroz Khan.
He provided him with an address to which gun parts could be delivered and displayed “jubilant, exultant and disgusting revelry” when the package was opened, the judge said.
He was sentenced to seven years in jail.
Raees Khan, 33, of Folkestone Street, Bradford, was convicted yesterday of importation of firearms after the jury returned a majority verdict.
The court was told that he had supported Tariq, Arif and Feroz Khan, and had allowed his phone to be used to contact Liburd in America.
Describing Raees Khan as a “helper with a capital H”, Judge Durham Hall sentenced him to seven years, with an 18-month sentence to run concurrently, for an unconnected burglary.
The involvement of Mohsin Hussain, 29, of Heidelberg Road, Bradford, and Sakawat Shah, 29, of Salt Street, had been for only one day, the court heard, Hussain on April 7 and Shah on April 14. They were both sentenced to eight years.
Debbie Jefferson, 34, of Church Street, Shipley, was recruited to receive packages for the gang, the court heard.
Sentencing her to a 12 months suspended for two years, with two years’ supervision, Judge Durham Hall described her as an “extremely vulnerable” person who was an “ideal candidate for the likes of Tariq and his ruthless gang to be used to receive these wicked weapons from the US”.
Her son Jamie, 18 of Shakespeare Towers, Burmantofts, Leeds, had also become involved, out of “misguided support” for his mother, the judge said.
Jamie Jefferson was sentenced to a 12-month community order with 12 months’ supervision.
All those sentenced yesterday had pleaded guilty to the charges they faced, apart from Sultan and Raees Khan.
The judge commended officers for their “robust and brilliant policing”, and praised agencies in the UK and the US for their co-operation.
Speaking after the hearing Detective Inspector Gary Curnow of the West Yorkshire Police Organised Crime Group, said: “While the scale of these crimes were significant, firearm importation is extremely rare.
“This was an unusual case involving a highly organised enterprise of criminals.
“Tariq and Arif demonstrated a concerning determination to continue to import weapons despite police intervention.”
He said investigations were ongoing to trace the seven guns that were unaccounted for.
“There is no particular concern that these weapons will be used for something specific within Bradford,” he added.
Margaret Taylor, of CPS Yorkshire and Humberside’s Complex Casework Unit, said: “This was a very serious and complex case involving investigations on both sides of the Atlantic.
“This revealed a well-planned, organised and determined conspiracy to import Glock pistols into the UK – particularly into Bradford.
“As a result of these investigations the defendants were arrested and their dangerous activities terminated.”
Five people who were on trial accused of the importation of firearms were acquitted on Thursday.
They are Damian Waite, 25, whose address cannot be disclosed due to a court order; Shauna Kilkenny, 19, and Andrea Burton, 33, both of Haycliffe Lane, Little Horton, Bradford; Shazia Hussain, of Pannal Street, Great Horton, Bradford, and Michelle Cheung, 19, of Adel, Leeds.