TWO ringleaders of a gang which smuggled guns into Bradford from the United States have each been jailed for 24 years.
Mohammed Tariq, 33, and Atique Arif, 32, were given the sentences at Bradford Crown Court along with six other men who were sent to prison for between eight and 12 years, West Yorkshire Police said.
The gang imported guns concealed with electrical equipment including DVD players and portable radios.
Police said the conspirators smuggled 13 firearms into the country in 27 packages over a 12-month period.
West Yorkshire Police said the investigation - Operation Lapworth - began in July last year when two parcels destined for addresses in the Bradford area were intercepted at East Midlands Airport.
Detectives said the conspiracy began when Tariq ordered a Taser gun from an American website.
Tariq and Arif then bought guns from a seller in Texas, who would break down them into parts and conceal them within the consignments destined for addresses across Bradford.
Operation Lapworth 2 started after further packages were intercepted when the pair were on bail following an initial series of arrests.
West Yorkshire Police delivered four dummy parcels to the new destination addresses in Leeds and Pontefract which contained deactivated parts of a gun belonging to the force, leading to further arrests.
Six men from Bradford pleaded guilty to possessing firearms with the intent to endanger life and the importation of firearms.
As well as Tariq and Arif, Sakawat Shah, 29, was jailed for eight years; Mohsin Hussain, 29, was jailed for eight years; Mudasser Iqbal, 29, was jailed for 12 years; and Feroz Khan, 24, was jailed for 10 years.
Debbie Jefferson, 34, and her son Jamie Jefferson, 18, both of Bradford but formerly of Mixenden, Halifax, each pleaded guilty to the importation of firearms. Debbie Jefferson was given a one-year suspended sentence and her son received a community order.
After a two-week trial, Akbar Sultan, 24, and Raees Khan, 33, of Bradford, were found guilty of conspiracy to import firearms and both received seven-year sentences.
Four women and one man were found not guilty of conspiring to import firearms by a jury in Bradford.
West Yorkshire Police said it was supported by the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).
The force also liaised with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) which arrested the seller and two women in Texas for their involvement in the plot.
All three have since been dealt with by the American authorities.
Detective Inspector Gary Curnow, of West Yorkshire Police’s Organised Crime Group, said: “While the scale of these crimes were significant, firearm importation is extremely rare.
“This was an unusual case involving a highly organised enterprise of criminals.
“Tariq and Arif demonstrated a concerning determination to continue to import weapons despite police intervention.”
He added: “Today marks the conclusion of a complex and challenging investigation and I am delighted with sentences passed down by the court.”
Matt Lewis, Head of Knowledge and Communications for the National Ballistics Intelligence Service, said: “NABIS has developed the most comprehensive knowledge base of illegal firearms and gun crime intelligence of any country in the world. Our ability to trace, track and forensically examine illegal firearms was central to the success of this investigation.”
Margaret Taylor, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “This was a very serious and complex case involving investigations on both sides of the Atlantic.
“This revealed a well-planned, organised and determined conspiracy to import Glock pistols into the UK - particularly into Bradford.
“As a result of these investigations the defendants were arrested and their dangerous activities terminated.”
• Full story and background in Saturday’s Yorkshire Post