A businessman has been found guilty of funding his millionaire lifestyle by flooding East Lancashire with millions of pounds worth of drugs.

Irtiza Bashir, aged 45, lived a lavish lifestyle including having a £1 million house and a Bentley with personalised number plates, while also living in a large rented house.

Following a trial at Bolton Crown Court, Bashir was found guilty of being at the centre of a conspiracy to import heroin and cannabis across Blackburn and Bolton, using the encrypted EncroChat messaging system to direct his empire.

Peter Wright QC, defending, said: “This defendant realises the only possible sentence is custody and therefore would wish to know his fate as soon as possible.”

Over the course of the trial, the jury heard how Bashir had masterminded the movement and sale of cocaine, heroin and cannabis worth more than £40 million.

He was involved in a conspiracy to smuggle huge quantities of cocaine from the Netherlands, packed in frozen chickens, to a cold storage unit in the Blackburn and Accrington area.

Bashir was arrested by police on December 16 last year after officers gathered information from encrypted EncroChat phones and came across pictures sent by a user with the handle ‘Weststreet’, who they believed to be Bashir.

Messages were also passed to Sohail Ali, aged 37, of Revridge Road, Blackburn, using the handle ‘Liquidemu’. Ali has already pleaded guilty to involvement in drug trafficking.

Neil Fryman, prosecuting, had previously told the jury how the EncroChat phone system is secretive, expensive and used internationally by criminals.

Bashir, of Chorley New Road, Lostock, denied being Westreet during the trial, insisting his wealth came from running Haslingden-based company Globe Recycling Services Ltd, a company he ran for 12 years.

He claimed to only draw a £10,000 salary with the rest of his money coming from dividends.

But the jury unanimously found him guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine, heroin and cannabis, conspiracy to import cocaine and cannabis and conspiracy to launder criminal cash.

His Honour Recorder Eliot Knopf said: “You have been found guilty by the jury of six counts of the indictment."

Bashir will learn his fate when he and Ali are sentenced at a later date.