Two major gangland prosecutions have revealed how AK47s are seen as the weapon of choice for organised crime.
Yesterday ( Friday) Warrington man Robert Brazendale was jailed for his role in helping Salford gangsters source an AK47,
On April 3 2020 Brandon Moore, 24, and Jordan Waring, 24, survived a shooting in Kersal, Salford.
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The men immediately began plotting with accomplice Umair Zaheer, 34, to hatch an ultimately unsuccessful r evenge shooting.
Warrington man Robert Brazendale was involved in the handover of an AK47, an Uzi sub machine gun and ammunition.
On April 15 2020 Brazendale, of Selworthy Drive, Warrington, drove his red Citroen van to deliver an AK47 assault rifle to a man in exchange for £10,500.
Later that day Brazendale was involved in another delivery after Khan, of Mersey Road, Didsbury, brokered and forwarded sale details to an unknown EncroChat user.
Riding a bicycle, Brazendale arrived at a convenience store car park in Thelwall, Warrington, and handed over an Uzi and Skorpion machine guns, a Taurus Brasil revolver and 300 rounds of ammunition to courier Hitesh Patel, 27, in exchange for £37,000.
But the NCA became aware of the plot as a direct result of the penetration of the EncroChat phone network.
After getting hold of the AK47, Khan and Zaheer both posed for pictures holding it.
On EncroChat, Khan told another user: "This ting gives me a hard on.
"This is the daddy.
"I feel like my d*** works.
"No lie best ting I’ve seen."
The men all pleaded guilty to charges which arose from Operation Venetic – the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of encrypted communications platform EncroChat.
Yesterday Zaheer was sentenced to 25 years in prison; Khan to 10 years and eight months; Patel to seven years and five months; Brazendale to 11 years and three months; Moore to 11 years and five months; Waring to eight years and seven months; and Coleman to six years and nine months.
Michael Brown was one of two doormen who stabbed to death innocent Colin McGinty after mistaking the 21-year-old for a gangland rival.
In 2001 he was sentenced to life with a recommended minimum term of 18 years for his part in the horrific attack, in which his victim was stabbed 15 times on a Bootle street.
Brown was, however, released in 2017 after serving just 16 years behind bars.
He changed his name to Michael Hoy and set himself up as a landscaper in what, from the outset, appeared to be an attempt to lead a different lifestyle.
However it later emerged that Hoy had sourced an EncroChat phone and used the device to broker deals for firearms including an AK47.
Using the codename TimelyBeta, Hoy tried to broker deals for grenades and guns.
On April 12, 2020 Patrick Murray sent Hoy a stock list featuring two AK47s, an Uzi and three Grand Power pistols.
Hoy was sentenced to life with a minimum of six years for the explosive and gun offences plus an additional 14 years for the drugs crimes, of which he will serve at least half.
Patrick Murray pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess explosives for an unlawful purpose, conspiracy to supply Class A drugs (cocaine), conspiracy to possess prohibited weapons and conspiracy to possess prohibited ammunition. He was sentenced to 16 years.
Philip Moran was found guilty after a trial of conspiring to possess prohibited weapons and ammunition; and to supply heroin, cocaine and cannabis. He was sentenced to 12 years.
Judge Robert Trevor-Jones, who referred to the chat about AK47s, said: “It states the obvious, perhaps, that they stand as the most dangerous and lethal weapons and can only be destined for use in the criminal community with potentially devastating results.”
The Cullen brothers
Experienced detectives were shocked when they discovered that the Cullen brothers had access to a fully working AK47.
Twin brothers Leon and Anthony Cullen grew up in the Longford area which became a stronghold for their crime gang. They were both jailed for drug offences in 2012.
The brothers ran a Warrington based drug gang and used fear and intimidation to stamp their authority on the town.
However a covert police operation codenamed Samurai led by Cheshire Police targeted the brothers and their associates.
When began raiding the gang's strongholds they found a fully working AKk47 and other firearms.
It later emerged that the gang had been doing business with powerful crime groups from Liverpool and Salford.
Anthony Cullen was jailed for 27 years. Leon fled to Dubai but was later arrested in the UAE and brought back to the UK to face justice. Leon Cullen was later handed 22 years and six months in prison after he admitted a string of drug and firearms offences.
What the police said
On Friday senior detectives welcomed the long prison sentences handed down to Brazendale and his associates.
Neil Gardner, NCA operations manager, said: “The weapons we took off the street and out of the crime groups’ hands were some of the most lethal around with a truly devastating capability.
“In seizing these weapons which are capable of firing multiple rounds per second, we have saved lives and protected the public.
“The offenders thought they were safe using encrypted comms, but working with the Crown Prosecution Service and Greater Manchester Police, we built a solid case that resulted in the men admitting their involvement.
“We will continue to do everything we can with partners at home and abroad to prevent organised crime groups trafficking firearms.”
Detective Constable Steven Walker, of GMP Salford's Organised Crime Unit, said: "This group of men undoubtedly posed a significant threat to the city of Salford and it's right that they'll now spend a majority of their adult years behind bars.
"The weapons that they were in possession of and the conspiracy they were planning could’ve proved to be a lethal combination and the work we've been able to do with the National Crime Agency has certainly saved at least one life.
"We believe some of the serious criminality we've seen in Salford over recent years has stemmed from the threat posed by these individuals and there's no doubt the community can welcome the fact that these men won't be operating on our streets for decades to come.
"This was a complex case and I'd like to thank our team of detectives from our team tackling organised crime in Salford, as well as partners from the National Crime Agency who brought the encrypted material to our attention to ensure that this group can be brought to justice for the full extent of their offending."
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