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A "trail of misery" - Peterborough man among drug dealer network spanning the UK

Three members of a national drug dealing network including one from Peterborough who left a ‘trail of misery’ behind them have been jailed for more than 30 years.
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Police van outside court

The trio were sentenced yesterday (Wednesday) at a hearing at St Albans Crown Court, for their part in a conspiracy to supply Class A drugs throughout the UK.

They’re the latest members of a national drug dealing network to be sentenced following an investigation by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU).

Wasim Afzal, 44, from St Margaret’s Avenue, Luton, was a courier for the organised crime group (OCG). He travelled the length and breadth of the UK to deliver kilo quantities of cocaine to customers as far north as Middlesborough, and as far south as Christchurch. He was found guilty following a trial and was jailed for 11 years and nine months.

Ashan Mahmood, 49, of Southlands Avenue, Peterborough, and Ben Lewis, 29, of St Swithins Road, Bridport, Dorset, were customers of the OCG, buying kilo quantities of Class A drugs which they would then sell on, Mahmood in Peterborough and Lewis in Dorset.

Mahmood was found guilty following a trial and received an 11 and a half year sentence.

Lewis pleaded guilty at a court hearing yesterday (Thursday) and was jailed for seven years and two months.

During the sentencing, His Honourable Judge Gray said that the trio received long sentences because of their “trail of misery”. He also added: “Drugs wreck lives at every level. You all know that.”

In total, nine men have now been jailed for more than 84 years as part of the investigation.

Using specialist surveillance officers over a six-month period in 2019, ERSOU investigators were able to establish that the OCG, by utilising a network of couriers, sold multiple kilograms of cocaine at a time to other gangs across the country.

Meetings were arranged by the group using covert encrypted devices intended to be hidden from the police, with couriers often travelling vast distances to drop off the drugs before returning immediately afterwards, all the while taking steps to disguise their activity. 

Detective Inspector Ian Mawdesley, from ERSOU’s regional organised crime unit, said: “We’re really pleased to see another three members of this drugs network locked up.

“Afzal played significant roles in the OCG, facilitating the distribution of cocaine across the country, while Mahmood and Lewis were responsible for peddling the cocaine throughout communities from Peterborough to Dorset.

“The supply of Class A drugs ravages communities across the country, which is why we target these organised crime groups.

“The investigation team has worked tirelessly to bring this network to justice and we’re pleased that nine men are now facing a substantial time behind bars as a result of our efforts.

“We will continue to leave no stone unturned in our fight against the supply of drugs; both within the eastern region and beyond to protect the vulnerable, improve community safety and quality of life.”

The other six men jailed are part of this operation are:

  • Ansar Akram, of Thumpers, Hemel Hempstead, jailed for 15 years
  • Ajmal Akram, of Thumpers, Hemel Hempstead, jailed for 14 years
  • Ryan Brockley, of Deepdale, Leicester, jailed for five years
  • Jameel Khan, of Winchester Street, Nottingham, jailed for 10 years
  • Ali Zarei, of Derngate, Northampton, jailed for five years and four months
  • Sarfraz Asif, of Dordans Road, Luton, jailed for four-and-a-half years