Criminal gang based in Blackburn jailed after ‘biggest ever cocaine haul’ was concealed in cheese

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The gang used blocks of cheese to hide the massive haul of drugs.

A criminal gang operating out of Blackburn have been jailed for more than 40 years after concealing large amounts of cocaine in cheese.

On May 3 2023, Lancashire Police raided a unit at the Old Fire Station in Blackburn and found a £17.2 million haul of cocaine.

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The unit belonged to 46-year-old Saleem Chaudhri, who had hidden the large amounts of cocaine inside blocks of Gouda cheese.

Minutes before his arrest, Chaudhri had taken possession of a Toyota Estate from a drugs courier in Walpole Street, Blackburn, and drove it to the Old Fire Station.

Saleem ChaudhriSaleem Chaudhri
Saleem Chaudhri | Lancashire Police

When Chaudhri opened the shutter to the unit, police officers found 217 kilos of cocaine, some hidden in the cheese and other blocks in black bin bags ready to be handed to couriers. 

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The drugs – imported from Belgium– would then be distributed around the United Kingdom.

The package containing cocaine hidden in Gouda.The package containing cocaine hidden in Gouda.
The package containing cocaine hidden in Gouda. | Lancashire Police

Chaudhri was arrested at the unit and the courier elsewhere.

As the investigation continued, police identified that 28-year-old defendant Rieddul Mohabath was directing couriers to Blackburn to pick up large quantities of cocaine.

On the day he was arrested, Chaudhri was due to hand 67 kilos to one courier and 63 kilos to another.

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Rieddul MohabathRieddul Mohabath
Rieddul Mohabath | Lancashire Police

Following the arrests of Chaudhri and the courier, enquiries showed that a second courier left Blackburn and headed back towards Mohabath’s base in South Shields. 

Throughout this period the courier was in contact with Mohabath.

On July 3 2023, Lancashire Police arrested Mohabath and outside his home in Dean Road, South Shields, was an Audi containing snap bags of cocaine. 

A property linked to him in Jarrow, South Shields, was searched and in the basement police found a significant amount of cash, a cash counting machine and suspected Class A drugs of varying weights.

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When police searched Chaudhri’s home in Waterside, Blackburn, they found nearly £10,000 in cash.

Inside the unit where the cocaine was found.Inside the unit where the cocaine was found.
Inside the unit where the cocaine was found. | Lancashire Police

Evidence shows that between September 2022 and May 2023 Chaudhri agreed to sell over 2000 kilos of cocaine worth over £70 million.

Chaudhri pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply cocaine and money laundering and on Friday April 12, he was jailed at Preston Crown Court for 27 and a half years.

Mohabath admitted conspiring to supply cocaine and was today jailed for 16 years.

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DS Haydn Sibley, of the Lancashire Police East Targeted Crime Team, said: “Chaudhri and his associates went to great lengths to hide their product and with the amount of cocaine seized – the biggest haul ever in Lancashire – you can understand why.

“When we arrested Chaudhri you could see by the look on his face that his world had crumbled and that is reflected by the significant sentence he has received today.

“I welcome the sentences that both Chaudhri and Mohabath received and I hope they send out a clear message about what you should expect to happen when we catch you supplying Class A drugs in Lancashire.”