02:57PM, Wednesday 31 July 2019
The former chairman of the trust which runs Maidenhead Mosque has been found guilty of attempting to export ecstasy to Pakistan.
Hassan Akhtar, 64, of Cornwall Close, was found guilty on Tuesday following a five-day trial at Reading Crown Court.
On Thursday, the court heard how 5,000 tablets, with a street value of between £50,000-£75,000 in Pakistan, were discovered by a DHL courier in six boxes of Celebrations chocolates on Saturday, December 8, 2017.
They had been dropped off at Safe Store in Slough – a DHL delivery site – the previous day.
The court heard the courier opened one of the boxes and found the gold pills with a domino design when he went to collect the parcel.
In the UK, where they are more commonly available, the tablets would have a wholesale value of £4,000.
The court heard on Friday how, on Friday, December 7, 2017, Akhtar received a call from his friend, who he referred to as Sunny, who was in the Chalvey area and without his car.
Akhtar said Sunny had asked if he could pick him up, drive him to Safe Store, and then home to Reading.
Akthar said he agreed as he had a friend to meet in Reading and told the court he wanted to see Sunny ‘to pay him some money back which I borrowed earlier’.
Akhtar told the court Sunny had told him he needed to ‘post chocolates for a friend’.
He said: “He didn’t mention where the chocolates were going, he mentioned a wedding.”
Akhtar said that, while at Safe Store, he filled out a delivery form while Sunny was packing the chocolates in a box.
Akthar told the court Sunny put down a piece of paper with details to be filled out in the delivery form.
The form Akthar filled out included a sender’s name, address and telephone number -which was for a Mohammed Khan at an address in Slough.
The court heard on Thursday from the address’ tenant and caretaker that no one with that name lived at the address.
The court heard Akthar signed the form, which confirmed there is nothing prohibited in the shipment, with ‘Mohammed Khan’.
Akhtar said Sunny told him Mohammed Khan ‘is the cousin of the guy receiving the chocolates, but he’s not here, he’s home asleep’.
Akhtar told the court: “I said to him (Sunny) I’m not the sender, he said ‘it’s only chocolates’ so I did it.”
“As far as I’m concerned chocolates are not illegal.
“I had no knowledge there were any drugs or anything illegal in the box.”
The jury was told Akhthar paid £100 of the £140 shipping costs at Safe Store, which he said this was some of the £250 he owed Sunny.
On Thursday, the court heard about a number of WhatsApp messages sent to and from Akhtar’s phone.
These included images sent from Akhtar’s phone of the DHL shipping documents.
Akhtar said that some of the messages, sent from November 2017, were meant for, or sent by Sunny.
Akhtar said: “He was using my Whatsapp because when he came over from America he didn’t have his WhatsApp.”
He added: “When I’m driving and he’s sitting in the passenger seat and he picks up (my phone) and sends a message I don’t know what he’s saying.”
Akhtar said the images were sent by Sunny ‘to confirm he had sent the chocolates’.
A message on December 6 2017 to Akthar’s mobile read: ‘Did you get the candy from our friend’.
In court Akthar said: “That is not for me, no.”
Akhtar is a former chairman of the Islamic Trust (Maidenhead), which runs Maidenhead Mosque, but resigned after he was arrested earlier this year.
In a statement released after the verdict, Maidenhead Mosque secretary, Sajid Khan said: “We are deeply saddened to learn that a former member of the Trust has been found to be involved in activities which are contrary to our beliefs and values. Mr Akhtar resigned shortly after he was arrested which was duly accepted.”
Akhtar will be sentenced on Monday, September 2.