A former youth volunteer worker and anti-extremism campaigner has been jailed for 12 years after playing a ‘significant’ role in a ‘high level’ drugs gang.
Zaheer Mahmood, of Persia Street, Accrington, was the ‘trusted right hand man’ in the operation and had control over £123,000 worth of heroin and weaponry, a court heard.
The taxi driver and father-of-two also helped involve Nadeem Abbas, 39, who came to play an ‘operational role’, by arranging accommodation for him next door.
Mahmood, 34, and Abbas were found guilty after a trial of two counts of possessing prohibited firearms and one count of possessing ammunition.
Mahmood was also found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A drugs. Abbas earlier pleaded guilty to the same charge and was jailed for 10 years and six months.
Preston Crown Court heard how police observations of an organised crime group in Bradford resulted in Mahmood and Abbas being seen collecting a box with 25kg of cutting agent.
When officers executed a warrant on Persia Street they also found 1.86kg of heroin, £40,690 in cash, masks and a hydraulic press.
Sara Dodd, prosecuting, told the court how they also found a pistol with the firing pin missing, a silencer and ammunition under Abbas’ bed.
She said: “They were a significant part of this organised crime group and they were there to be used to enforce debts and to protect the stash of cash and drugs.”
Geraldine Kelly, defending Mahmood, said he carried out a ‘limited role under direction’ and had ‘no influence on others in the chain’.
She told the court how Mahmood, who campaigns against extremism, was previously a ‘mentor for youths to stop them going on the wrong path’ and is ‘spoken highly of in the community’.
She said: “This offending is shocking to them as it is totally outside of any behaviour they have ever witnessed in the time they have seen and known him.”
Yunus Valli, defending Abbas, said he had been ‘exploited by others to do their dirty work’ as he had ‘overstayed’ on his visa.
He told the court how Abbas was ‘unable to resist the pressure of seasoned criminal acquaintances’ and was ‘very easily influenced, led and pressured into doing what he did’.
Mr Valli said the drugs and gun were not his, he didn’t have any influence and is remorseful.