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Punjab-origin brothers jailed in UK ‘drugs in chicken’ scam

Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Prasun Sonwalkar
PUBLISHED ON JAN 27, 2020 10:24 PM IST

Two Punjab-origin brothers, who were part of a Birmingham-based organised crime group that smuggled drugs worth millions of pounds by hiding them in chicken shipments from the Netherlands, have been each jailed for two years.

The sentencing of Manjinder Singh Thakhar, 36, and Davinder Singh Thakhar, 42, by the Birmingham Crown Court last week dismantles the group whose other members were previously jailed. They were involved in transport, often moving raw chicken around in unrefrigerated vehicles.

The brothers were involved in the criminal enterprise masterminded by Wasim Hussain, 34, and Nazrat Hussain (unrelated), 36, who set up a series of front companies which were involved in the importation of chicken from the Netherlands, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.

On three occasions, heroin and cocaine worth around £5 million was seized hidden in chicken shipments. However, NCA investigators, working in partnership with the Dutch police, subsequently identified another 16 importations which they suspect contained drugs, which would have brought the overall street value to around £12 million.

Colin Williams of the NCA said: “The crime group that the Singh Thakhar brothers were part of operated in numerous ways that bring harm to the UK. They used front companies to appear to be legitimate goods importers, they had links with criminals abroad, and the ringleaders were involved in conspiring to supply firearms.”

“Working with Dutch partners, the NCA spent several years bringing the entire crime group to account, dismantling their operation from top to bottom, and preventing them from fuelling violence and exploitation in the West Midlands and far beyond.”

The NCA said Wasim Hussain and Nazarat Hussain have been jailed for a combined sentence of nearly 44 years.

The import of chicken shipments began in June 2016 and continued into 2017. After the first two seizures, the group set up a new company to try and cover their tracks.

They would use genuine shipping companies to move loads from Rotterdam in the Netherlands to distribution hubs where they would be collected by members of the group. The shipments were set up by Nazarat Hussain, who made regular trips to the Netherlands to meet suppliers.

Following the interception of two chicken shipments and the arrests of two gang members, the gang switched tactics, using two corrupt baggage handlers to collect three kilos of high-purity cocaine off a flight from Brazil to Heathrow.

But NCA officials were watching their moves, and officers moved in to make arrests as one of the airport workers met Birmingham taxi driver Adnan Ahmed Malik just outside the airport. Three kilos of high-purity cocaine was found in a rucksack in the taxi.

In June 2017, another shipment was dispatched from the Netherlands, but the drugs were removed by Dutch police, who were working with the NCA. When it arrived in Birmingham minus the drugs the group knew they had been busted.

Wasim Hussain rang his main Dutch criminal contact in panic, telling him “throw your phone, throw everything, throw the SIM away.” Wasim Hussain and Mohammed Shabir were arrested by NCA officers shortly afterwards.

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