A ‘desperate’ businessman, who got involved in a plot to try and smuggle £1.4m of cannabis into the UK, turned to a life of crime after his Northern Quarter dessert business failed, a court heard.
Mohammed Abdulrehman, 25, from Didsbury, is now starting a two year prison sentence after police watched on as the drugs were transferred from a lorry into his Fiat Doplo van in Gloucestershire.
Gloucester Crown Court heard that Abdulrehman, who has no previous convictions, was £15,000 in debt after his business failed.
He accepted the job as a drugs courier to start to repay the money he owed, his barrister said.
Abdulrehman went to collect cannabis from a Dutch lorry driver in the Travelodge car park just off the A417, near Cirencester, Gloucestershire Live reported.
John Lader’s HGV contained a number of boxes which initially appeared to be part of a legitimate business to transport flowers.
But the boxes actually contained cannabis which had been vacuum packed to prevent it from smelling and alerting the authorities.
Prosecutors said the lorry contained 141 kilograms of cannabis, which had a potential street value of £1.4million.
Abdulrehman was set to receive 47kg of the drug, and Lader was planning to make a further four drops later that day.
The court accepted that Lader believed the boxes he was transporting from Holland contained illicit tobacco, not cannabis.
On the day of the drop off, on October 29 last year, he arrived in the car park at about 12.20pm, and Lader followed at 1pm.
Lader got out and started to unload boxes from his lorry into the Abdulrehman’s van.
Officers who had been observing the drop-off then arrested the pair.
Lader told the police he thought he was smuggling cigarettes and had no knowledge of the cannabis, while Abdulrehman made no comment.
Lader, 51, of Voorschoten in the Netherlands, previously received 16 months in jail, suspended for two years, for four offences of attempting to fraudulently evade duty on tobacco products between October 6 and 30 last year.
Abdulrehman, of Golbourne Avenue, Didsbury, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply cannabis and attempted possession with intent to supply cannabis.
Defending, Michael Goldwater said Abdulrehman became involved in crime after his business failed.
Mr Goldwater said Abdulrehman was told if he collected the cannabis he would be ‘credited’ with £700 against his £15,000 debt.
“Mr Abdulrehman was in the driver’s seat at all times. He would not have known what was in the lorry and that his was a portion of a very much larger consignment.
“He would have known that he was couriering a significant amount of cannabis.
“He was a courier and that was his role.
“It has never been claimed that his life was in danger, but he was under a substantial obligation to make repayments to his creditor.
“He comes from a respectable family from Manchester. His brother is a successful restaurant proprietor.
“He was well educated completing A-levels, and then went to work in restaurants in Saudi Arabia.
“His mother and younger brother died, so he returned to Manchester.
“He took on what seemed to be a successful enterprise, a dessert business.
“It was in the northern quarter of Manchester. An up and coming area.
“He had a hope of making a success of it.
“But the Mancunian appetite for desserts is perhaps in its infancy.
“He had to close the business. He owed a lot of money.
“It was put to him this was a way to start make repayments. He did. And this is where he is.”
Sentencing Abdulrehman, Judge Michael Cullum told him: “This was a very large amount of cannabis.
“The headline ‘courier’ describes your actions.
“You had a vehicle in which you were going to collect nearly 50kg. You must have to a degree been aware of a chain of operation.
“You were clearly doing it for money. I accept you were desperate.
“You made a decision quite deliberately, but quite wrongly to get involved in crime.
“Apart from this you are a hard working young man. This was alien to you.”
The fresh flowers from the lorry were later handed out to organisations in Gloucestershire which support victims of rape, sexual and domestic abuse, as well as a community cafe.