Two men from West Yorkshire used charity money raised by their local mosque to fund an attempt to smuggle heroin worth £2 million into the country from Pakistan.
Hafiz Waris Ali, 48, travelled out to Pakistan to buy 17kgs of the Class A drug under the guise of assisting in the repatriation of a dead friend.
As the friend had no relatives in the UK, the trip had been paid for by worshippers at the mosque he attended in Batley, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Manchester Crown Court was told that on his return flight, Ali, of Cardigan Close, Batley, hid the heroin in his hold luggage, but his baggage was lost between connecting flights.
Communications data showed that immediately on landing Ali contacted his brother-in-law Rafakat Hussain, 29, from Alverthorpe Road, Wakefield, and a third man, Mohammed Fazil.
When the baggage arrived three days later the three men travelled to the airport together, not realising the drugs had been seized by Border Force officers. Ali was detained by NCA investigators but Hussain and Fazil fled the airport. Hussain was later arrested by NCA officers.
Ali and Hussain both admitted conspiring to import heroin and pleaded guilty. They were sentenced to seven-and-a-half and seven years in prison respectively for their part in the drug smuggling operation.
Fazil is now in custody in Pakistan, having been arrested by the authorities at Lahore Airport on separate charges.
Rob Miles, head of the NCA’s Manchester border investigation team, said: “These men used a tragic event and the generosity of their community in an attempt to fund their drug running.
“The heroin would have had a potential street value of over £2 million – Ali and Hussain knew there was a huge profit to be made.
“Working with our colleagues at Border Force we are determined to disrupt international organised crime networks and prevent them using Manchester Airport to bring illegal drugs into the UK.”
Steve Smith, Assistant Director of Border Force North, said: “We welcome this sentencing which should send a strong message to the criminals who think they can smuggle drugs into the United Kingdom.
“Border Force officers are on the front line to stop illegal drugs like heroin making it onto our streets and causing harm to our communities.
“As this case demonstrates, we are working with law enforcement colleagues in the NCA to disrupt drug traffickers and put those responsible behind bars.”