Moment police raid uncovers £17.2 million worth of cocaine hidden in blocks of cheese

16 April 2024, 09:33 | Updated: 16 April 2024, 09:36

A gang involved in the sale of millions of pounds worth of cocaine have been jailed
A gang involved in the sale of millions of pounds worth of cocaine have been jailed. Picture: Lancashire Police

By Flaminia Luck

A gang who hid millions of pounds worth of cocaine - some of it in blocks of Gouda cheese - have been jailed for more than 40 years.

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Lanchashire Police have shared footage of the moment they raided The Old Fire Station in Blackburn and found the stash.

Evidence showed Saleem Chaudhri agreed to sell over 2000 kilos of cocaine worth over £70 million between September 2022 and May 2023, the force said.

The 46-year-old pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply cocaine and money laundering.

He was jailed for 27 and a half years at Preston Crown Court on Friday.

Police officers find cocaine stored in cheese

Minutes before his arrest, they saw 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 UK, the force said.

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Saleem Chaudhri was jailed for more than 27 years
Saleem Chaudhri was jailed for more than 27 years. Picture: Lancashire Police

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, the force said.

Officers also found nearly £10,000 in cash in his home in Waterside, Blackburn.

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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 Mohabath was arrested outside his home in Dean Road, South Shields. Outside his home 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.

Mohabath admitted conspiring to supply cocaine and was today jailed for 16 years on Monday.

Rieddul Mohabath was jailed for 16 years
Rieddul Mohabath was jailed for 16 years. Picture: Lancashire Police

DS Haydn Sibley 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.”