Two men from Birmingham who were responsible for supplying sawn-off shotguns to organised crime groups have been jailed for more than 55 years, after a joint investigation by the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) and the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Mohammed Rafiq Khan, aged 29 from Bordesley Green and Michael Harkin, 54, from Yardley were sourcing the weapons and distributing them to criminal associates across the West Midlands. Khan was also the head of a drug dealing network which distributed class A drugs across the region and eight of his accomplices were also locked up for more than 60 years at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday (Wednesday 1 November).
Investigations found 68 year-old John Spencer Booth, a registered firearms dealer from Derbyshire, converted lawfully held firearms for Harkin and Khan by shortening barrels and removing serial numbers from shotguns. A total of 14 sawn-off shotguns were recovered and more than five kilos of Class A drugs were distributed through the illegal operations.
Harkin and his partner Lucy Wilkie were both arrested last October after officers searched their home in South Yardley and recovered three sawn-off shotguns. A further search conducted at the address of acquaintances Vineeta Kainth and Mark Adkins resulted in the recovery of component parts, including sawn-off barrels and ammunition.
On Monday 16 January 2017, armed officers stopped the vehicle Booth was driving and recovered 10 sawn-off shotguns and 250 cartridges in the boot. A search of Booth's business premises and home address in Ashbourne revealed a workshop and equipment used to shorten shotgun barrels and stocks.
Numerous cut barrels were found, suggesting this had been an on-going criminal enterprise.
Joel Martin was part of Khan's drug dealing network and was arrested in possession of wraps of crack cocaine and heroin. Officers searched his home address and found approximately £15,000 worth of drugs.
Further enquiries led police to Mark Jones who was found with bags of heroin he was storing for Khan; while mother and daughter Anthea and Kareen Bagnall were caught with heroin and crack cocaine after being stopped in a car in Birmingham.
Jones, Kareen and Anthea Bagnall were drug runners responsible for the distribution of Class A substances from Birmingham to outer city locations, known as a County Lines network. More than 100 calls per day were made using Khan's line to drug users in Welshpool, Shrewsbury and Birmingham.
The investigation culminated when Khan was detained at Shrewsbury train station in February 2017. He was found in possession of five mobile phones, over £1,500 in cash and tickets to Dubai.
Detective Inspector James Mahon, from the West Midlands Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: "This was a complex investigation but has led to significant prison sentences and illegally held guns and drugs being removed from the streets.
"These converted sawn off shotguns had the potential to be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands; while drugs can ruin lives and communities."
Jon Greenwell, from the NCA's Armed Operations Unit added: "Whilst the majority of registered firearms dealers adhere to their licensing arrangements, there are some who are prepared to buy, convert and sell firearms for criminal purposes. Booth was one of these individuals.
"Using his legitimate business as a cover, he actively sought to convert weapons for organised crime groups to make money. He gave no thought to where or how the weapons he converted would be used and in my mind posed a very real risk to the public.
"Anyone who has information or is concerned about illegally held guns or ammunition to contact their local police, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111".
It comes as the drive to take guns off the streets continues with a two-week national firearms surrender which is being co-ordinated by the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (Nabis) between 13-26 November.