A STOURBRIDGE drug smuggler who controlled an international network of heroin traffickers has been jailed for 16 years.

Tahir Mahmood, of Ridge Grove, controlled multiple couriers in Spain who imported large quantities of the class A drug into the UK and other European countries on flights from Pakistan.

The 53-year-old was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Thursday July 3 after pleading guilty to five heroin trafficking offences in January.

His right-hand man Anwar Bashir, aged 43, from Bradford, was given 15 years in jail after a being found guilty of three offences following a six-week trial in May.

The pair, who were brought to justice after an extensive multi-agency surveillance operation led by the National Crime Agency, travelled extensively across Europe to recruit and meet with couriers to organise the importation of the drugs which were sophisticatedly concealed within suitcases, books and specially-adapted clothing.

But they were stopped in their tracks after analysis of mobile phone data pinpointed their locations at the time of the heroin seizures – proving they were in contact with each other as well as the couriers.

Paul Risby, NCA branch commander, said: “We proved Mahmood and Bashir were linked to seizures totalling 46 kilos but I believe the network dismantled could have been responsible for many more importations – bringing misery, harm and violence to communities.

“Tackling the supply of drugs on a global level and protecting our borders are priorities for the NCA and its partners. We targeted the couriers one by one and obtained the evidence that led to the downfall of these two men. They are now behind bars where they belong.”

Andy Young, from the Organised Crime Division at the CPS, said: “Those who trade in illegal drugs bring misery to our communities and the CPS is determined to act against them.”

And he said the sentences were “proof that international borders are no obstacle when it comes to bringing offenders to justice”.

As part of a wider operation an additional 49 kilos of heroin were seized and five couriers were prosecuted separately, receiving sentences ranging from five to 12 years.