Trio jailed after £3.25m of cannabis found hidden in crates of frozen meat in Lancashire warehouse

A gang who hid millions of pounds worth of cannabis in crates of frozen meat inside a Lancashire warehouse have been jailed.

Police were conducting enquiries in Commercial Street, Oswaldtwistle when they noticed a "death smell" emanating from a warehouse on August 26, 2020.

When officers searched the unit - named 'A2Z Meats Ltd' - they uncovered numerous boxes containing 200kg of skunk cannabis and 200kg of cannabis resin.

The drugs had an an estimated street value of around £3.25m, according to police.

Officers also unearthed a large bin which contained "rotting meat".

Investigations found the unit was being rented by the defendants and used as a cover to take delivery of large amounts of cannabis.

A Vauxhall Vivaro van registered to defendant Badrul Alam was also discovered outside the unit, as well as a vehicle owned by the defendant Yamin Patel.

Forensic examinations found DNA on drinks bottles that had been recovered from an office that belonged to Alam and Patel.

Police were conducting enquiries in Oswaldtwistle when they noticed a "death smell" emanating from a warehouse (Credit: Lancashire Police)

DNA found inside pink Marigold gloves that were used to clean the packages of cannabis was also found to be that of defendant Ismail Ahmed.

The defendants were also linked to the conspiracy via data recovered from their mobile phones.

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."

Badrul Alam (pictured left), Ismail Ahmed (pictured middle) and Yamin Patel (pictured right) (Credit: Lancashire Police)

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CCTV recovered from the area showed that a HGV registered to a haulage company in Spain arrived at the unit in the morning of August 26.

Defendant Gary McCann was captured moving bins around outside the unit in preparation for the removal of the cannabis from the boxes of meat.

Documentation showed that there had been eight similar deliveries to the unit from the Spanish haulage company between March 2020 and August 2020, coinciding with the rental of the unit by the defendants.

When officers searched the unit they uncovered numerous boxes containing 200kg of skunk cannabis and 200 kg of cannabis resin (Credit: Lancashire Police)

Following a detailed investigation officers identified those believed to be involved and executed warrants at addresses in Burnley, Blackburn and Nelson.

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

- Yamin Patel, 34, of Revidge Road, Blackburn

- Gary McCann, 59, of Marles Court, Burnley

The four defendants pleaded guilty to all charges brought against them and were remanded into custody on November 24.

On Friday (December 3) at Preston Crown Court, Judge Guy Mathieson sentenced them to the following:

- Badrul Alam: three years and six months.

- Ismail Ahmed: three years and nine months.

- Yamin Patel: four years.

Gary McCann will be sentenced early next year.

A fifth man charged as part of the conspiracy was acquitted.

DCI Tim Brown, from East Division, said: "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."

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