A TAXI driver — who could have become a millionaire after inventing a hands-free umbrella — has been jailed for gun running.

Ibrar Ahmed, pictured, was caught with a Czech-made self loading pistol and five live rounds of ammunition hidden behind a cushion in the back of his minibus.

The 31-year-old was arrested after undercover police carried out surveillance on two other men they had already targeted — one selling the pistol, and the other who brokered the deal.

Ahmed, of Rishton Avenue, Great Lever, was stopped by officers in Chadderton on March 31 last year, where the weapon and ammunition had been picked up.

He insisted he had known nothing of the pistol and bullets, which were wrapped in a yellow cloth inside a plastic bag, and claimed he was an innocent victim who had been set up.

Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court was told it was “nonsense” to suggest the weapon had been left in his vehicle had he not been fully involved in the deal.

William Baker, prosecuting, told the court Ahmed, who has no previous convictions, succumbed to temptation and agreed to pick up and deliver the weapon to earn easy cash.

But Ahmed said: “I never had anything to do with drugs or firearms. I would never touch bad money.”

Police found £2,300 in an envelope in Ahmed’s Toyota Hiace minibus. But he maintained he had borrowed the cash earlier that day from a friend to help finance a property deal.

Ahmed, who denied charges of selling or transferring a prohibited firearm and possessing ammunition, came up with an idea for a strap that fixes the umbrella to a handbag, after seeing women struggling with brollies in the rain.

The court was told he had been about to sign a deal, which he hoped would have made him a million, but that had been put on hold because of the trial.

Two Asian males, who have never been identified, were behind the deal to buy the gun and bullets, the court heard.

Wayne Catterall of Swallow Drive, Bury, was said to have been the Mr Fixit of the operation, arranging to buy from a seller in Oldham, pleaded guilty to the same offences, as did Robert Marshall, the man who sold the weapon and ammunition, and Philip Stevenson, the man who apparently hid them in the back of Ahmed’s vehicle.

The court heard how the two Asian buyers picked up Catterall at his Bury home and drove him to Oldham, where the deal was struck.

Catterall and Marshall shook hands and Catterall was driven home to Bury by the Asian men in their black BMW X5.

Ahmed, who had been in contact with the men two days earlier by mobile, was called, told to drive to Oldham and given a postcode to put in his satnav.

He drove to Wastwater Street and Mortimer Street where Stevenson got into the minibus and put the bag behind the back seat.

Marshall was seen minutes later on a nearby car park, counting wads of banknotes.

Ahmed had claimed he had been asked to pick up a fare.

He said the man he later knew was Stevenson had flagged him down, and jumped into his vehicle as he was struggling to find where he was.

Mobile records showed there had been frequent contact on the day between Ahmed and the two Asian men, and they continued to try to contact him after he was arrested.

Jailing Ahmed for five years, Judge Bernard Lever told him: “Illegal guns are a cancer on our society, particularly when using specially adapted bullets.

“They can only be used by drug dealers, gangsters and extortionists.

“You are an intelligent, hard working and quick witted young man, but you were foolish enough to get involved in this wicked trade.

“People who deal in guns get people like you to take the risks for them, and no doubt you were tempted to give your assistance for money.”