Former taxi driver jailed after acting as drugs courier for organised crime groups between Liverpool and South Tyneside

A former taxi driver who acted as a drugs courier for two organised crime groups has been put behind bars.

Baber Azim moved commercial quantities of cocaine from Liverpool to South Tyneside and made return trips with cash payments.Newcastle Crown Court heard he was paid £500 per delivery and made a total of four separate trips before he was caught by the authorities.

The court heard how the 43-year-old had been recruited by the Merseyside crime group and John Allcock's criminal gang in South Tyneside, who all received prison sentences in April 2022.

The crime groups used an electronically operated trap door hidden inside a white van to transport large quantities of high purity drugs across the UK.

The case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court.

They used another vehicle, equipped with a heavy duty boot-liner hidden under a pile of tools, to move around tens of thousands of pounds in criminal cash during an underground conspiracy between January 2017 and May 31 2018.

The men had attempted to evade detection by conducting shady face-to-face business meetings, as well as communicating via encrypted devices and also used a number of tactics to frustrate police activity.

Azim, of Stoke Poges Lane, Slough, Berkshire, admitted supplying cocaine and possessing cocaine with intent to supply.

The court heard Azim got involved in the illegal enterprise after he got into "massive debt" and feared he may lose his family home.

Judge Tim Gittens sentenced Azim, who he said was a "family man" with a good work record, to four years and nine months behind bars for the offences.

The judge told him: "You became a drugs courier for an organised crime group. Your work as a taxi driver was undoubtedly good cover for that."

Judge Gittens said Azim played a "small but vital" part in the operation and acted under direction of others, but said the defendant would have known he was "part of something bigger".

At a hearing last month Allcock, 52, of Hillmeadows, Willington, County Durham, who had been found guilty of Conspiracy to Supply Class A and B drugs and money laundering was jailed for 21 years.

Carl McAlindon, 37, of Abbey Road, Jarrow, was found guilty of Conspiracy to Supply Class A and B Drugs and money laundering and was sentenced to 13 years.

Bernard Sewell, 41, of Roman Road, Jarrow, was found guilty of Conspiracy to Supply Class B drugs and jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Mark Hiscock, 46, of Cheviot Road, South Shields, was found guilty of money laundering and jailed for 12 months.

David McFarlane, 53 of Hadrian Road, Jarrow was found guilty of money laundering and jailed for 12 months.Glen Stoddart, 53, of Mariners Point, Hartlepool, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class B drugs, money laundering and participating in activities of an Organised Crime Group.

He was jailed for five-and-a-half years for the offences.

Paul Marrow, 62, of Rainford Road, Dentons Green, St. Helens, Merseyside, admitted Conspiracy to Supply Class A drugs and is yet to be sentenced for the offence.