A businessman who helped organise the biggest gun-running gang ever uncovered in Britain was jailed for 20 years yesterday.
Kaleem Akhtar, 29, teamed up with the former cage-fighter Paul Wilson, the "gangster" Mudassar Ali and four others to sell an "assassin's armoury" to the underworld. Akhtar, described as a "thrill-seeking rich kid", was said to be driven by a "desire for street cred and glory".
They flooded the criminal underworld with handguns, silencers and bullets, packaged into kits and sold at £1,700 a time.
The kits, described as "ballistic bling", became a status symbol favoured by violent street gangs and used in crimes in Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford and Scotland. Such was the spread of the weapons that they led to a "spike" in gun crime figures.
The seven men were sentenced to a total of 86 years at Manchester Crown Court yesterday.
There were gasps and tears from the public gallery as Akhtar, whose millionaire family run a shopping and warehouse business in Liverpool and Manchester, was jailed. His family includes an uncle who is an MP in Pakistan and a grandfather who is a former government minister.
The judge, Clement Golstone QC, said Akhtar was attracted by the "glamour and notoriety" of gangs. He said: "You were drawn to this conspiracy out of greed and a desire for street cred and glory. You have not brought glory to your family, which is well respected here and in Pakistan; you have brought shame and disgrace."
Akhtar led a double life, playing the dutiful son with an arranged marriage in the £350,000 home he was given as a wedding gift by his family, and working in his family's clothing firm empire. But behind his privileged and respectable background, the self-styled "Big K" distributed handguns to gangs and major criminals.
He drove an expensive Range Rover and spent much of his time in nightclubs, keeping two secret girlfriends and living the life of a mobster.
Each of the gang's Russian-made Baikal handguns were brought from Lithuania to Essex, then taken in batches to Manchester by the Lithuanian brothers Agnius, 26, and Edgaras Malcevas, 39. But police had the gang under surveillance.
They were sold on to Ali, 30, from Bradford, who was described as the "senior player". Ali, who was jailed for 18 years yesterday, recruited Akhtar and others as salesmen and couriers.
Wilson, 37, a career criminal and drug dealer who lived in a £1m house in Southport, Merseyside – and who lost his one professional cage fight – bought the guns to sell on. He was jailed for 11 years and six months. Asaid Salim, 27, from Trafford, Greater Manchester, who packaged the assassins' kits, was jailed for 10 years, eight months.
All were convicted of conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition with intent to enable another to endanger life.
Michael Peake, 44, from Liverpool, a courier for Wilson, was jailed for nine years for possession of firearms. Agnius Malcevas was jailed for 12 years and ordered to be deported after his release. His brother, Edgaras, was jailed for five years.
All of the weapons were originally blank-firing gas handguns which can be sold legally for about £100 in some countries. But they had been stripped down and re-barrelled, converting them to fire 9mm bullets, as accurate and powerful as factory-made weapons.
Police seized 56 Baikal pistols supplied by the gang, which was "only a proportion" of the true figure.