05:43PM, Monday 02 September 2019
A man who was found guilty of attempting to export ecstasy in six tubs of Celebration chocolate boxes was given an eight year prison sentence today.
Hassan Akhtar, 64, of Cornwall Close, Furze Platt, received his sentence via video link at Reading Crown Court.
He was found guilty of the offence on July 30 by a unanimous jury decision following a five day trial at the same court.
It concerned the attempted exportation of 5,237 MDMA tablets via a store in Slough to Pakistan on Thursday, December 7, 2017.
Akhtar was arrested on February 27 and charged the next day.
During the trial in July, Akhtar maintained that he was only helping a friend to ‘post chocolates for a friend’.
The court also heard about a number of Whatsapp messages sent to and from Akhtar’s phone.
These messages included images sent from Akhtar’s phone of the shipping documents and one sent to Akhtar’s mobile on December 6, 2017 that read: “Did you get the candy from our friend?”
In court today defence barrister James McCrindell said that Mr Akhtar can be treated as a man of ‘good character’.
It was stated in court that Akhtar has a 1985 conviction for the supply of heroin but since then he has only been guilty of ‘relatively minor matters’ – including the possession of cannabis.
Mr McCrindell also cited community references from those who knew him including Maidenhead Mosque secretary Sajid Khan and the chairman of the Windsor and Maidenhead Community Forum (WAMCF), Karnail Pannu MBE, of the Sikh Gurdwara in Rutland Road.
Akhtar was a former chairman of the trust which runs Maidenhead Mosque until he stepped-down after his arrest.
Mr McCrindell said: “Karnail Pannu speaks about this man’s work, really pulling together people from a wide range of faiths in a way.”
He added that references from Akhtar’s loved ones describe ‘a man devoted to doing the right thing by his family’.
Judge Kirsty Real said: “It is an operational function you were performing in this, it must have been for financial gain.”
She said she heard conflicting submissions from the defence and prosecution during the trial but recognised that Akhtar had ‘significantly contributed to the local Muslim Community’.
Her Honour Judge Kirsty Real passed a sentence of eight years, of which Akhtar will serve half of and the rest on licence.
Thames Valley Police released a statement after Akhtar’s sentencing.
Senior investigating officer, detective sergeant Rob Hood, of Thames Valley Police’ Serious Organised Crime Unit said: “We hope that this sentence demonstrates that drug dealers will be dealt with robustly in the Thames Valley, and police will always investigate such reports thoroughly.
He added: “Akhtar was clearly looking to profit from selling drugs, and thought that by concealing them in chocolate tubs that he would not be detected.
“Thames Valley Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit carried out a detailed investigation into this incident and we are pleased that Akhtar will no longer be dealing drugs in our communities.
“We would always urge the public to report any issues of drug dealing, as your reports can help us to investigate crimes, bring offenders to justice and seek to prevent drug dealing in our communities.”
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