A Blackburn man has been jailed for more than 12 years after admitting to trafficking Class A drugs into the country.

Sohail Ali’s criminal behaviour was uncovered as part of Operation Venetic, an international investigation into the use of mobile encryption service Encrochat.

Ali, 38, of Revidge Road, Blackburn, went by the nickname ‘Liquidemu’ on Encrochat, and was a trusted lieutenant Irtiza Bashir, who was jailed for 23 years last month for running a major drugs operation in East Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

Ali appeared at court today to be sentenced and was jailed for 12 years and nine months after admitting to importing Class A drugs and conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

Examination of data from encrypted phones identified Bashir was the user of the device/ handle 'WESTSTREET' and he had been responsible for buying and selling multiple kilograms of cocaine and heroin, worth more than £40 million.

A trial heard how Bashir led a double life, portraying himself as a successful businessman with sites in East Lancashire, when in reality it was cover for his drug enterprise.

Lancashire Telegraph: Irtiza BashirIrtiza Bashir (Image: GMP)

Ali, his trusted lieutenant, used the device/ handle 'LIQUIDEMU' which he used to arrange the delivery and collection of drugs.

Detective Inspector Darren Taylor from the Operations Team at the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit said: "The sentencing of these men will undoubtedly have resulted in significant disruption to the supply of Class A drugs in the North West.

“Bashir was a key member of his organised crime group, buying and selling more than 500kg of drugs netting him a profit margin of more than £3.6 million.

“Evidence retrieved from his phone also detailed his plans to import ketamine, launder money and import controlled drugs via a frozen food truck from overseas.

"This is the latest in a long line of convictions secured against those who used the Encrochat facility to carry out crimes, to try and evade detection.

“Here at the NWROCU we’re committed to targeting the supply of drugs and will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of those people who think they are above the law."