Brazen gang used sweet potato boxes to smuggle drugs worth millions through Gatwick

Kashif Mushtaq (top left), Sarbjit Chumber (bottom left) and Attiq Ur Rehman Credit: BPM Media

An east London gang stashed millions of pounds worth of drugs inside sweet potato boxes in a brazen operation to smuggle cocaine and cannabis into the UK.

Attiq Ur Rehman, Kashif Mushtaq and Sarbjit Chumber smuggled the illegal substances from Jamaica and were caught out after a lengthy operation by the National Crime Agency.

Police seized nearly 35 kilos of cannabis from a car in Hackney back in 2018. The drugs were wrapped in sealed packages within cardboard boxes used for transporting sweet potatoes. Kashif Mushtaq, 38, from Romford was arrested in connection with the seizure.Three months later, in January 2019, 94 packages containing cocaine and cannabis were found in another load of sweet potatoes on a flight that had arrived at Gatwick airport from Kingston. The drugs were worth more than £3.5 million.

Officers working the case tracked the drugs to an industrial estate in Hayes.

Attiq Ur Rehman was arrested on Kingsbury Road, North London after trying to escape.

Sarbjit Chumber, 48, from Hounslow was arrested minutes later at Spitalfields Market after being in phone contact with the gang.Analysis of messages between the men led back to Mushtaq who, following his arrest in 2018, had been released under investigation.

Mushtaq was suspected of also playing a leading role in the operation despite being in Pakistan at the time that the drugs were seized. He was subsequently arrested after returning to the UK.

'Drugs could have fuelled crime and violence'

"This crime group were well organised and established a system that enabled them to smuggle drugs into the UK through legitimate services, where every man had his role in the conspiracy," said Jon Eatwell, lead officer from the National Crime Agency.

"The drugs they trafficked would have been sold across London and could have fuelled further crime and violence. Working with partners, we are determined to relentlessly pursue organised crime groups involved in the importation and supply of drugs," he added.