FOUR men have been jailed for running a huge organised drugs ring in Blackburn.

The men ran an organised crime group that shipped thousands of pounds of cocaine from the Midlands to the North of England for over a year.

More than 20kg of high purity cocaine with a wholesale value of over £600,000 was seized during investigations.

Yasser Shah, 31, of Thornbank in Bolton, was the ringleader of the gang, which spanned Blackburn and Bolton.

The massive operation ran from March 2018 to May 2019. Shah controlled a number of couriers who collected, transported and delivered the drugs on his behalf. The couriers then passed the drugs onto ‘distributors’ who sent the drugs down the supply chain until they eventually got to the ‘street dealers’ who would sell the drugs to cocaine users.

Shah was jailed today for 17 years.

Other men jailed today included Bilal Ashraf, 30, of Whitewell Place in Blackburn who was jailed for 13 years for his role as a courier.

Hassam Rasool, 26, of Ryhl Avenue in Blackburn, was jailed for 11 years for being a courier.

Martin Lewis, 54, Firbeck Gardens in Stafford, was jailed for nine years for distributing.

Gul Bahar, 38 fromn Halifax was convicted as a distributor and will appear in court for sentencing at a later date.

Bilal Ashraf was the first to be caught in the sting, followed by a string of other gang members.

On December 13, 2018, Ashraf was stopped by police on his way back from Coventry and was arrested in possession of 10kg kilograms of cocaine.

Then on February 28, 2019, Hassam Rasool was stopped by police on his way back from Telford and arrested in possession of 10kg of cocaine he had collected from Martin Lewis.

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Finally, in May 2019, Gul Bahar and a second man (later acquitted) were arrested in Tesco car park in Halifax after a police search of their vehicle resulted in the seizure of 1kg of cocaine.

Yasser Shah was arrested later that day after being stopped by police in the local area and linked to the earlier offences.

Detective Inspector Scott Waddington, from North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU) investigations team, said: “Drug dealing causes significant harm in our communities. It’s one of the NWROCU’s biggest priorities and our teams are working tirelessly, alongside other law enforcement agencies, to target those involved in the illegal drugs trade, and bring them before the courts.”

“This is a great result today, and our streets are that bit safer with these drugs dealers off the streets.”

“If anybody has any information about potential drug dealing, I urge you to please to contact police on 101 and tell us what you know. Alternatively you can call Crimestoppers and report what you know anonymously on 0800 555 111.”