EIGHTEEN criminals who ‘inflicted misery’ on the people of East Lancashire by involving themselves in large-scale drug conspiracy were on the receiving end of harsh words as they were handed their jail terms.

Judge Philip Parry said the tentacles of evil of drug supply stretch far beyond what the defendants in this case are likely to ever imagine, still less care about.

His Honour Judge Parry, who was appointed as a circuit Judge in 2016 and currently sits at Preston Crown Court, delivered the words as he handed down lengthy sentences to 18 men and women involved in the supply of cocaine and cannabis in East Lancashire.


“Those who involve themselves in the wicked trade of Class A and Class B drug supply inflict misery on drug effects and the victims of crime who suffer at the hands of addicts who need money to buy their drugs.

“The tentacles of evil of drug supply stretch far beyond what the defendants in this case are likely to be able to imagine, still less to care about.

“All of the defendants in this conspiracy involved themselves willingly in this wicked and large-scale conspiracy because of greed and an indifference to those who suffer in the chain below them.

“All defendants displayed a selfishness and put their desire to have the trappings of a wealthy lifestyle ahead of the needs of others,” Judge Parry said.

The sixteen men and two women involved, largely from Blackburn and Darwen, were sentenced over three days as current social distancing measures at the court only allow for four defendants to enter the dock at any one time.

Main players Usman Akhter and Shaheed Virmani were at the top of end of the major drug-dealing chain which sourced, bought and supplied Class A and B drugs throughout the northwest of England.

The court heard how Virmani operated largely as a ‘sole trader’ while Akhter had a raft of lieutenants and foot soldiers working beneath him.

The men worked together alongside others to get hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of cocaine and cannabis onto the streets.

During his sentencing remarks, Judge Parry explained how the group had been brought down largely as a result of the arrest of another man Ardit Rrhmani outside of a property on Sarah Street in Darwen – an address used as a hold for commercial scale cannabis supply and later, cocaine supply.

In the vehicle Rrhamani had been driving was 130g of cocaine with a value of nearly £9,000 and several cloned number plates.

Judge Parry said: “Subsequent arrests, seizures of mobile phones and analysis of EncroPhones revealed at least two criminal enterprises in existence, headed firstly by Usman Akhtar and secondly by Shaheed Virmani who largely ran his enterprise alone.

“Whether alone or with others in support they each ran commercial-scale class A and B drug supply operations throughout the northwest of England, sharing knowledge and resources to ensure their respective operations ran uninterrupted.

“Usman Akhtar was assisted by the co-conspirators in this case, all of whom played a valuable role in these very profitable conspiracies."

Much of the material used to arrest and prosecute defendants in the investigation, named Operation Florence, was extracted from EncroPhones – devices used by criminals to evade interception by the authorities.