£1m of stolen medicines found in pharmacist’s warehouse in Wakefield

0
Have your say

A MAN who stored stolen medication worth more than £1 million in a warehouse in Wakefield was jailed for four years today.

Hafiz Noorullah, 45, was asked to keep more than two million Contam, Lopresor and Femara pills.

The medication, used to treat Parkinson’s, high blood pressure and breast cancer, was stolen in 2005 while en route from the Swiss headquarters of pharmaceutical giant Novartis to a distribution depot in Thatcham, Berkshire.

Today at Southwark Crown Court, Noorullah was told he would spend half the four year sentence for one count of handling stolen goods in custody.

The court heard that the medication was being transported in a lorry from Switzerland to Berkshire in March 2005, where the trailer was stolen overnight.

More than two years later, investigators found the pills being sold on the internet and were invited to Noorullah’s warehouse in Wakefield to view them.

Another man, Mahmoud Aziz, allegedly showed them the merchandise. He later fled to Canada and UK authorities are currently trying to extradite him to face trial here.

Noorullah, who had previously trained as a pharmacist and was a licensed wholesale pharmaceutical dealer, denied knowing that the pills were stolen.

But prosecutors said he would have realised they were not legitimate.

Today Andrew Bird, prosecuting, said: “Mr Noorullah was not only the responsible person under the licence but he had also qualified as a pharmacist and he would know these sort of products, if legitimate, would be accompanied by paperwork.”

The value of the drugs to Novartis was £1.1 million, and Mr Aziz was seeking a price of 3.6 million dollars, the court heard.

They were marketed as being within their sell-by date but in fact were not.

Noorullah was last month found guilty of one count of handling stolen goods.

He was previously acquitted of breaching his dealer’s licence.

Passing sentence, Judge David Higgins said: “One way or another you met a man called Mahmoud Aziz who made it plain to you from the outset that he was in possession of a large quantity of drugs which had been stolen from Novartis, the large Swiss pharmaceutical company.”

While the value of the medicine in the EU would be diminished because it was past its sell-by-date, it could still attract a seven-figure sum outside the region, he said.

“The drugs were in fact, and you knew this, intended for sale outside the EU and by necessary implication to the sort of people who for one reason or another would not be bothered by such matters and therefore would still be willing to pay a seven-figure sum for the drugs,” the judge said.

He accused Noorullah of showing “indifference” to any health hazard that might be faced by those who took the medication, and said he had responded “with enthusiasm” when approached by Aziz.

Aziz marketed the drugs as being stored in a licensed warehouse, and Noorullah “facilitated in a fundamental way the attempted sale of the stolen goods” by allowing his premises to be used, Judge Higgins said.

He called the crime “a highly organised, professional commercial operation”.

Referring to Noorullah’s previous convictions, which include violence and fraud, he said: “You have regularly been involved in the most deplorable and deeply anti-social conduct, the offence currently before the court being particularly serious.”

Judge Higgins went on: “You are entirely devoid of remorse. You continue to be a man of great moral turpitude.”

The father of two, whose parents are from Pakistan but was born in the UK, remained impassive as he was sentenced.

He was also ordered to pay £15,000 costs.