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Members of drugs gangs, who worked together to peddle over £1.5m of heroin and cocaine across Lancashire and other parts of the country, have been jailed for a total of 167 years one month.

36 people have now been sentenced as a result of Operation Oak, a covert Lancashire Constabulary Serious and Organised Crime Operation into the activities of criminal gangs operating in Blackburn and Preston, as well as other parts of Cumbria, Merseyside, Berkshire and West Yorkshire.

They were arrested in a series of early morning raids in August and September 2011 after a major police operation involving hundreds of police officers from across the northwest. During the various investigations which followed, over £1.5million worth of drugs were seized by police, along with over £200,000 in cash.

Gang leaders Suhail Vohra, 32, of Charnwood Close, Blackburn, Babar Qasam, 34, of Chestnut Walk, Blackburn; Asrer Khan, 29, of Dove Street, Preston; Neil Scarborough, 32, of Moor Hall St, Preston; Brett McWilliam, 22, of St Andrews Street, Barrow in Furness; Gary Rowlands, 28, of Sloop St, Barrow in Furness; Roman Moscicki, 30 of Adam Close, Slough; Rahman Miah, 29, of Azalea Court, Bradford and Jonathon Nicholls, 31, of Oak Grove, Tarbuck, Liverpool – along with their associates – were all sentenced for supplying class A drugs or money laundering offences.

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At a final sentencing hearing at Preston Crown Court on Monday 13 May, Tahier Chand, 34, of Manchester Road, Huddesfield was jailed for five years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin. He is the 36th person to be sentenced in connection with Operation Oak.

Details of the full investigation can only now be made public due to reporting restrictions which were lifted following a hearing at Preston Crown Court last week.

Detective Superintendent Lee Halstead, of Lancashire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “Operation Oak has dismantled a network of drugs gangs responsible for the supply of over £1.5million worth of cocaine and heroin across northern England and has resulted in the recovery of huge sums of cash.

“As a result these people, who did not have a legitimate income, led comfortable and in some cases quite affluent lifestyles, acting as negative role models to young people. This was at the expense and misery of other residents in the community, whose lives were blighted by the effects of drug dealing and associated violence in their neighbourhoods.

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“This has been a large scale investigation and we have worked closely with officers from our neighbouring forces and the Crown Prosecution Service. Together, our actions have prevented a significantly large amount of drugs from reaching the streets of Lancashire helping to make the county a safer place.”

Billboard posters and leaflets will now be used to highlight the sentences to the communities who were affected by the gangs as part of Lancashire Constabulary’s Behind Bars campaign.

Det Supt Lee Halstead added: “Our planned ‘Behind Bars’ campaign should now remind everyone that 167 years in prison is proof that crime certainly does not pay.

“It’s incredibly important that people continue to support the police by providing us with information so that we can keep them safe and look for ways to prevent organised crime gangs from operating in the future.

Joanne Cunliffe, Crown Advocate from the CPS North West Complex Casework Unit added: “The fact that 36 individuals have been brought to justice for their involvement in the large scale supply of Class A drugs across the north of England is a testament to the close partnership between the CPS, Lancashire Police, Cumbria Police and other neighbouring forces.

“From the early stages of this investigation, the prosecution team provided guidance and advice to the police and tirelessly worked with them to build a strong case against each defendant.

“As a result we have successfully secured their convictions and dismantled a prominent source of drugs in our region and surrounding areas. The message is clear, we will not tolerate the supply of drugs on our streets and we are wholly committed to prosecuting those responsible.”

Anyone with information or concerns can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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