A major drugs gang whose “tentacles of criminality” spread across Bolton were behind moving vast amounts of heroin into the borough.

Led by 39-year-old Farnworth man Zulfiqar Khan, the group worked with another organised crime gang from Wigan to spread hard drugs into the town.

Khan and five other men from the two gangs were brought before Bolton Crown Court this week after an elaborate police investigation into their crimes.

Judge Nicholas Clarke KC said: “This is yet another case of a conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and associated crimes committed by two organised crime groups, one based in Bolton and one in Wigan.

“The drugs then spread into communities where they are repacked and sold to addicts whose lives and relationships are affected.

“They then resort to thieving and further criminality to feed their addictions.”

The Bolton News: The case was heard at Bolton Crown CourtThe case was heard at Bolton Crown Court (Image: Newsquest)

Addressing the six men in the dock, he added: “So the tentacles of your criminality reached out to affect the population as a whole.”

Over a two-day hearing, the court heard from prosecutor Matthew Conway how between March 2020 and June that year the two gangs had used the messaging service Enchrochat to co-ordinate their crimes.

Khan, who used Enchrochat under the name “NavyFox” had worked together with 40-year-old David Hall, a member of the Wigan group and a key go-between with the Bolton gang to arrange for heroin to be moved.

Hall then used Jason Bennett, 34, as a “highly trusted” courier to help move the drugs working for a Wigan drug dealer identified only by his Enchrochat handle “WiredTuna.”

Over this three month period, Khan was connected to around 9.5kg of heroin while Hall and Bennett were linked to 16.5kg of heroin, 1kg of cocaine and around £200,000 in cash.

After a 15 month gap, Khan became involved in a second hard drugs conspiracy around his Farnworth based Palm Motors business.

This time he used 29-year-old Bolton man Mohammed Amjad as a courier, replacing him with Tahir Ilyas, 36, after Amjad’s arrest on February 16 2021 and finally his own 20-year-old nephew Haroon Rashid, then still in his late teens, as a “money man.”

Amjad was arrested on the M6 after being stopped with half a kilogram of cocaine which led to Ilyas becoming more prominent in the group.

Police maintained a long-running surveillance operation at Palm Motors, which Judge Clarke said “was used as a front” by the gang, until a “strike day” when all remaining members of the conspiracy where arrested.

But as Judge Clarke pointed out, the conspiracy was “undoubtedly intended to go on for longer than it did.”

Ultimately, all of the men pleaded guilty before being brought to trial.

Andrew Alty, defending Khan of Lorne Street, Farnworth, argued that he was entitled to credit for admitting his crimes and said he had not lived the same “lavish lifestyle” often associated with high level drug dealers.

Patrick Buckley, defending Hall of Stewart Road, Wigan, made similar arguments and pointed out he had no previous convictions, while Oliver Jarvis, defending Bennett of Sutherland Road also in Wigan, argued he was “highly regarded” by many who knew him.

Steven Swift, defending Amjad of Green Lane, Bolton, pointed out that he too had not previous convictions, while Ilyas’ barrister Adam Lodge argued that he had pleaded guilty and shown sincere remorse since his arrest.

Finally, Imran Anwar, defending Rashid, of Loxham Street, Bolton argued that given his young age and guilty plea there was still a “realistic prospect of rehabilitation” for him.

Judge Clarke reminded the court that all had played their parts in a serious criminal conspiracy.

He jailed Khan, the leader of the Bolton group, for 20 years and four months and Hall, go-between with the Wigan group, for 11 years and three months.

Bennett, the Wigan courier, was jailed for nine years.

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Bolton courier Amjad was sentenced to eight years and six months while Ilyas of Embla Walk, Bolton, whose role was more limited, was jailed for six years and nine months.

Finally, Judge Clarke accepted that Rashid had fallen under “the malign influence of his uncle” and spared him an immediate jail term.

He sentenced the 20-year-old to 19 months in prison, suspended for two years and hit him with a curfew confining him to his home between 7pm and 7am for three months.

He also ordered Rashid to complete 120 hours of unpaid work with 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days.