FOUR criminals have been locked up for a total of 25 years – after plotting to bring this terrifying handgun and lethal ammunition to the streets of Sheffield from across the Pennines.
Faisal Aziz, aged 23, was caught red-handed with a .455 revolver and bullets in the boot of his VW Golf when he was stopped by police on Manchester Road, Crosspool, as he made his way off the A57.
The plot had been orchestrated by Sheffield criminal Razwan Mirza, 30, from Darnall, who recruited 23-year-old Aziz as a middleman to liaise with the gun’s supplier.
Aziz, of Flaxby Road, Darnall, was caught as he drove back to Sheffield after collecting the weapon from Lancashire.
He had picked it up from the Bolton home of Nadim Bashir Ahmed, aged 35 – who had been provided with the gun by Mubashar Sarwar, 43, also from Bolton.
The men communicated using ‘dirty’ phones – mobiles kept separate to their everyday phones, and used for criminal purposes – and were linked to each other by cell site evidence, prosecutor Philip Standfast told Sheffield Crown Court.
They were under police surveillance because they were suspected of being involved with guns, and caught on March 23 last year.
Jailing them, Judge Michael Murphy QC told the court: “There was a time in South Yorkshire when gun crime was virtually unknown – but that is no longer the case.
“These courts are regularly seeing criminals who possess guns and use them on the streets of Sheffield and the surrounding area.
“As a result, people are being killed and maimed.
“There are high risks for the victims of gun crime and for the police who investigate these crimes, and deterrent sentences are required.”
Mirza was jailed for eight years after being found guilty following a four-week trial of conspiracy to transfer a prohibited weapon.
Aziz and Ahmed each pleaded guilty to the same charge and were both jailed for five years.
Sarwar was found guilty by jurors of the same offence, and jailed for seven years.
Judge Murphy told Aziz: “You were prepared to deliver the gun to determined criminals in Sheffield for whatever purpose they might intend.”
He told Ahmed: “You were the link between the provider of the gun and the Sheffield criminals who ordered it.
“You may not have had it in your possession for long, but you were essential link.”
Addressing the two of them he said: “You were both part of a plot to bring a lethal weapon into South Yorkshire and put it into the hands of whoever wanted to use it for whatever their intended purpose might be.
“For that there has to be a substantial sentence of imprisonment.”
Judge Murphy praised the police for their ‘excellent’ and ‘meticulous’ investigation, and asked for those involved to be commended to the chief constable.
Speaking after the hearing, senior investigating officer Det Insp Craig Jackson said: “The sentences reflect the seriousness of the crime.
“South Yorkshire Police are determined to rid the streets of illegal firearms and pursue those organised criminals involved in this criminality and bring them to before the court.”
Senior Crown Prosecutor Gavin Hotchkiss added: “This was a complicated case which involved the use of mobile phone analysis, voice recognition, automatic number plate recognition and undercover surveillance, to place Razwan Mirza and his associates at the heart of a network intent on transferring a firearm.
“This has resulted in a successful prosecution and, we can only assume, prevented a more serious crime taking place.”