A Bradford mobster and his six accomplices who were involved in the biggest gun-running gang ever uncovered in the UK have been jailed for a total of 86 years.
Mudasser Ali, 30, of Great Horton Road, headed the operation which flooded the criminal underworld with handguns, silencers and bullets, packaged into assassins kits and sold at £1,700 a time.
The kits, described as “ballistic bling”, became a status symbol favoured by violent street gangs and used in crimes in Bradford, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Leeds.
In one incident, a 15-year-old boy found one of the guns loaded, and with the safety catch off, on a patch of scrubland in Bradford. Such was the spread of the weapons they led to a “spike” in gun crime figures.
Ali described as the “senior player” in the selling of an “assassins armoury” to the underworld was yesterday jailed for 18 years at Manchester Crown Court.
Businessman Kaleem Akhtar, 29, of Manchester, said to be a “thrill-seeking rich kid” and recruited by Ali as a courier, was jailed for 20 years.
Paul Wilson, 37, a career criminal and drug dealer who lived in a £1 million house in Southport, Merseyside, bought the guns to sell on. He was jailed for 11 years six months.
Asaid Salim, 27, of Trafford, Greater Manchester, who packaged up the assassins’ kits, was jailed for ten years and eight months.
All were convicted of conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition with intent to enable another to endanger life.
Michael Peake, 44, of Liverpool, a courier for Wilson was jailed for nine years for possession of firearms.
Agnius Malcevas, 26, was jailed for 12 years and ordered to be deported back to Lithuania after his release. His brother Edgaras, 39, was jailed for five years.
Each of the Russian-made Baikal handguns were brought from Lithuania to Essex, then taken in batches to Manchester by the Malcevas brothers to be sold on to Ali.
All of the weapons were originally self-loading, blank-firing gas handguns which can be sold legally for about £100 in some European countries.
But each one had been expertly stripped down and re-barrelled, converting them to fire 9mm bullets, as accurate and powerful as factory-made weapons.
The gang’s deadly trade was eventually halted after an extensive surveillance operation was carried out by police.
Officers seized 29 Baikal guns supplied by Akhtar and others during operations in Manchester alone, along with 856 9mm bullets.
Another 27 from the same source have turned up across the country, but the 56 seized is “only a proportion” of the guns distributed by the gang.
In the UK Baikals were first noted by police in 2003 but now more than 300 have been seized.
There were gasps and tears from the public gallery as Akhtar, whose millionaire family run a shopping and warehouse business in Liverpool and Manchester, was jailed.
His family include an uncle who is a MP in Pakistan and grandfather a former Government minister.
Judge Clement Golstone QC, said Akhtar was attracted by the “glamour and notoriety” of heavy criminals and gangs.
He told him: “You were drawn to this conspiracy out of greed and a desire for street cred and glory. You have not brought glory to your family, which is well respected here and in Pakistan, you have brought shame and disgrace.”
But all of the gang put “money and glory” before human life, said the judge.
After the case Detective Sergeant Jim Gray, of the Armed Crime Unit of Greater Manchester Police, said: “People all over the country are without a doubt safer now that these men are in jail.
“Criminals like this are beyond understanding. They know these guns are likely to be used to threaten, hurt, maim and even kill people. Each one of those 856 bullets could have ended someone’s life.”