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Cocaine in cheese conspiracy gang jailed for more than 40 years

Monday, April 15, 2024

Saleem Chaudhri will remember 3rd May 2023 for the rest of his life.

That is the day we raided the 46-year-old’s unit at the Old Fire Station in Blackburn and found his £17.2 million haul of cocaine, some of which was hidden inside blocks of Gouda cheese.

Minutes before his arrest, we had seen Chaudhri take possession of a Toyota Estate from a drugs courier in Walpole Street, Blackburn, and drive it to the Old Fire Station.

When Chaudhri opened the shutter to the unit our officers found 217 kilos of cocaine, some hidden in the cheese and other blocks in black bin bags ready to be handed to couriers. The drugs – imported from Belgium– would then be distributed around the United Kingdom.

Chaudhri was arrested at the unit and the courier elsewhere.

As the investigation continued, we identified that 28-year-old defendant Rieddul Mohabath was directing couriers to Blackburn to pick up large quantities of cocaine.

On the day he was arrested, Chaudhri was due to hand 67 kilos to one courier and 63 kilos to another.

Following the arrests of Chaudhri and the courier, our enquiries showed that a second courier left Blackburn and headed back towards Mohabath’s base in South Shields. Throughout this period the courier was in contact with Mohabath.

On 3rd July 2023 we arrested Mohabath and outside his home in Dean Road, South Shields, was an Audi containing snap bags of cocaine. We searched a property linked to him in Jarrow, South Shields, and in the basement we found a significant amount of cash, a cash counting machine and suspected Class A drugs of varying weights.

When we searched Chaudhri’s home in Waterside, Blackburn, we found nearly £10,000 in cash.

Our evidence shows that between September 2022 and May 2023 Chaudhri agreed to sell over 2000 kilos of cocaine worth over £70 million.

Chaudhri (pictured top right) pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply cocaine and money laundering. On Friday (12th April) he was jailed at Preston Crown Court for 27 and a half years.

Mohabath (pictured bottom right) admitted Conspiring to supply cocaine and was today jailed for 16 years.

DS Haydn Sibley, of our East Targeted Crime Team, said: “Chaudhri and his associates went to great lengths to hide their product and with the amount of cocaine seized – the biggest haul ever in Lancashire – you can understand why.

“When we arrested Chaudhri you could see by the look on his face that his world had crumbled and that is reflected by the significant sentence he has received today.

“I welcome the sentences that both Chaudhri and Mohabath received and I hope they send out a clear message about what you should expect to happen when we catch you supplying Class A drugs in Lancashire.”