Drug gang who smuggled £3.5m of coke and cannabis into UK hidden in sweet potato boxes jailed for 41 years

Kashif Mushtaq, 38, Sarbjit Chumber, 48, and Attiq Ur Rehman, 41, were caught with 13.5st  - or 85.5 kilos - of the class A and B drugs.

A drug smuggling gang who shipped more than £3.5m worth of coke and cannabis into the UK from Jamaica hidden in boxes of sweet potatoes have been jailed for a total of 41 years.

Kashif Mushtaq, 38, Sarbjit Chumber, 48, and Attiq Ur Rehman, 41, were caught with 13.5st  - or 85.5 kilos - of the class A and B drugs.

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Police first seized nearly 5.5st - of 35 kilos - of cannabis in a car in Hackney, east London, in October 2018.

From left, Rehman, Chumber and Mushtaq. Photo: NCA

The drugs were wrapped in sealed packages in cardboard boxes used for transporting sweet potatoes, police said.

One of those arrested in connection with the haul was Mushtaq, who it emerged during a raid on his home in Romford, east London, had links to Jamaica.

The seizure led National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators to a second shipment three months later.

The drugs were hidden in a sweet potato box. Photo: NCA

A total of 94 packages of coke and weed were found in another load of sweet potatoes on a flight that arrived at Gatwick airport from Kingston, Jamaica.

The drugs collectively weighed 85.5 kilos and would have been worth more than £3.5m if sold on the streets of the UK, the NCA said.

Investigators tracked the second load of drugs to an industrial estate in Hayes, west London, where the boxes were seen being sorted.

Attiq Ur Rehman. Photo: NCA

Officers arrested Rehman as he took a handover of the boxes in Kingsbury Road, north London, where he tried to run away before officers caught up with him.

Chumber, from Hounslow, west London, who was suspected of being involved in the drug exchange and was in phone calls with the men, was arrested minutes later at Spitalfields Market in east London.

Messages between the men led investigators back to Mushtaq, who had been released under investigation following his arrest in 2018.

Kashif Mushtaq. Photo: NCA

The NCA suspected Mushtaq also played a leading role in the operation despite being in Pakistan at the time the drugs were seized.

He was then arrested after returning to the UK.

At Southwark Crown Court on Thursday, April 21, Mushtaq was jailed for 17-and-a-half years, Chumber for 14 years and Rehman received a nine-and-a-half year sentence.

Sarbjit Chumber. Photo: NCA

Last month the gang were all found guilty of drug smuggling offences over the January 2019 shipment, but a fourth man was cleared by the jury.

Mushtaq and two other men were found not guilty of involvement in the October 2018 seizure.

Jon Eatwell, lead officer from the NCA’s anti-corruption unit, said after the sentencing: “This investigation has resulted in substantial jail terms for these men who will be denied any criminal gains and face years behind bars.

“Together they ran a sophisticated operation that enabled them to bring drugs into the UK through legitimate services, where every man had his part.

“Those drugs would have ultimately been sold across London, likely fuelling further crime and violence.”

Mr Eatwell added: “This crime group was well organised and established a system that enabled them to smuggle drugs into the UK through legitimate services, where every man had his role in the conspiracy.”