A TRIO of men who facilitated the importation of millions of pounds worth of cannabis into East Lancashire in shipments of frozen meat have been jailed.

Badrul Alam, Ismail Ahmed and Yamin Patel were arrested after an officer working a job in Oswaldtwistle was drawn to a warehouse after smelling what he described as ‘death’ coming from inside.

However once officers accessed the premises, named AtoZ Meats, they discovered cannabis skunk and resin with a street value of over £3million.

Prosecuting the case, David Povall said: “On August 26 last year a uniformed police officer, PC Dutton, attended a small industrial unit in Oswaldtwistle where he had gone to make enquiries consequent to an arrest of a person completely unconnected with these defendants.

“There are three units on that estate and he went to one of them which was labelled AtoZ meats. He immediately noticed a strong smell of putrefaction coming from that unit which he described as ‘smelling of death.’”

Despite repeatedly hammering on the door and calling the telephone number, the officer was unable to gain access, prompting him to call for back-up. 

By the time they accessed the property the men had gone, but what they did find was a sophisticated cannabis set-up which was being fronted by a meat-packing factory.

Mr Povall added: “A workstation had been set-up within the body of the unit. Down the centre was a pallet wall. On one side was a stack of boxes containing mostly frozen cows’ feet which were being unpacked with the meat being hurled into bins. 

“Underneath the feet were heat-sealed packets of skunk cannabis and cannabis resin. Those were being taken out. There was then a section of the pallet wall which had been set-up as a cleaning station.

"It appeared that the packets of drugs which had been taken out having been mixed up with meat were then being cleaned and re-packaged.

“The officers arrival had interrupted the unpacking of this consignment of drugs.”

The court heard how in total there was 220kg of skunk cannabis and 208kg of cannabis resin with a street value of around £3million.

Footage recovered from the area during investigations showed that earlier that morning, an HGV registered to a haulage company in Spain arrived at the unit and a number of crates were delivered.

Lancashire police say that further examination of documentation showed that there had been around eight similar deliveries to the unit from the Spanish haulage company between March 2020 and August 2020.

Following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the defendants were charged with conspiracy to supply cannabis resin and conspiracy to supply herbal cannabis.

They were Badrul Alam, 35, of Higher Reedley Road, Nelson; Ismail Ahmed, 36, of Granville Street, Burnley, and Yamin Patel, 34, of Revidge Road, Blackburn.

On November 24 the defendants pleaded guilty to all charges brought against them and were remanded into custody.

Judge Guy Mathieson sentenced Patel to four years in prison, Ahmed to three years and nine months and Alam to three years and six months.

All men had previous convictions relating to drugs.

Judge Mathieson added: “You fall to be sentenced for your participation in what is a huge criminal business operation to bring into the country and distribute huge amounts of cannabis which was undoubtedly to generate huge amounts of profit for those who would receive those profits. 

“All three of you played a vital role in that enterprise. You were involved as willing participants, as knowing participants – you were recruited to do this work with your eyes open. You were not conned, forced, coerced or in any other way persuaded to do it.

“You knew exactly what you were doing, what you were taking on and thought that the risk was worth it.”

DCI Tim Brown, from East Division, said: “These conspirators all played their individual roles in what was a sophisticated drugs operation, which saw large quantities of cannabis exported into the UK, repackaged and then sold on. The only thing which motivated these men was greed.

“While not Class A drugs, the sale of cannabis leads to exactly the same type of violence, exploitation and funding of serious and organised crime. It causes misery in communities and leads to vulnerable people being taken advantage of.

“This was a long and complex investigation and a lot of time, hard work and tenacity went into securing these convictions. I am pleased that this organised criminal gang has now been disbanded and its members jailed. I would also like to thank our colleagues from the CPS.

“Lancashire Police will not tolerate illegal drugs activity of any kind and will use all the powers available to us to seek out, arrest and prosecute the offenders.”