A LEIGH man has been jailed after three guns, ammunition, a silencer and £30k cash were seized.

Since the infiltration of Encrochat – the encrypted communications platform used by many in the criminal underworld, several of those arrested and charged have been challenging the admissibility of the evidence which has resulted in delays in criminal proceedings.

Jonathan Cassidy and Nasar Ahmed, two prolific drug importers and money launderers police jailed earlier this year, were one of the lead cases against this.

As a result, there have been several guilty pleas to follow, and yesterday (Thursday, May 9) saw two men, including one from Leigh, sentenced.

Leigh Journal: Police recovered guns and ammunition

Najeef Saleem, 45, of Smallbrook Lane, Leigh, was jailed for 22 years.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life, conspiracy to supply cocaine, and conspiracy to supply cannabis.

Nahidul Monaf, 36, of Rita Ave, Moss Side, was jailed for ten years. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life and production of cannabis.

A proactive operation into these two men was launched in 2019. Our case was further strengthened in 2020 when the Greater Manchester Police received a referral from the National Crime Agency of thousands of Encrochat messages.

Saleem, who was using the handle ‘Rafealcaroquintero’ – after the Mexican drug lord, which provided further evidence of his criminality.

Leigh Journal: Police recovered guns and ammunition

On the evening of Thursday, October 3, 2019, GMP executed a warrant at an address on Kingsway, Cheadle.

Following an extensive search, two self-loading pistols and ammunition hidden in a shed in the garden were found.

It soon became clear that the occupants of the address were not involved in the conspiracy, rather the gun belonged to a man who was doing building work on their property; Nahidul Monaf also known as Bobby, and his associate Najeef Saleem.

CCTV was recovered from the address which showed the pair accessing the shed on several occasions prior to the warrant, and a forensic examination of the guns was conducted, giving detectives crucial evidence linking Monaf and Saleem to the weapons.

Leigh Journal: Police recovered guns and ammunition

Police returned to the Kingsway address on Monday, January 13 to conduct further searches, in particular, the roof space which was accessible via a hatch. Inside, another gun, further ammunition, and a silencer were recovered.

Whilst this investigation developed, a simultaneous operation ongoing into Monaf and Saleem in relation to drugs was carried out and found they had several properties linked to them.

On July 8 2020, Saleem was arrested at an address on Smallbrook Lane in Leigh.

Around £30,000 cash, several mobile phones, paperwork, and a set of keys linked to a unit in Cheetham Hill were recovered.

A radio frequency detector was also seized, which is a device often used by organised crime groups to establish if law enforcement is tracking their vehicles or mobile devices.

Monaf was arrested at an address on Rita Ave in Moss Side, where police found further cannabis plants.

Warrants were also executed at units in Cheetham Hill where two large cannabis farms were discovered.

Leigh Journal:

It was a sophisticated set up with high tech, expensive equipment used to control their product, including dehumidifiers, a ducting system, filters, and a hose system which will have undoubtedly been a huge cost to them.

Messages between April and June 2020 showed Saleem was regularly purchasing and suppling large quantities of class A and B drugs and was involved in the supplying and handling of firearms and ammunition through an established criminal network of contacts spanning the UK and abroad.

Texts saw Saleem trying to buy ammunition in bulk saying ‘250, 300, 500, as many as you can get’, and ‘please I need bad.’ Discussing the ‘sick sprayer’ he had just bought; conversations detailed how two bullets would do the job as long as they didn’t miss. Copious messages sharing images of drugs, cash and firearms were exchanged, and deals were made.

Saleem bragged about obtaining further powerful firearms and hand grenades. He was clearly a trusted member of the organised crime group, and he was seen organising the collection of drugs and cash daily.

They are now behind bars for a long time thanks to a meticulous investigation by specialist detectives in our Serious Organised Crime Group.

Leigh Journal: Nahidul MonafNahidul Monaf (Image: Nahidul Monaf)

Detective Sergeant Colin Shackleton from our Serious Organised Crime Group said: “This was clearly a sophisticated operation. Saleem and Monaf had invested hundreds of thousands of pounds into their illicit enterprise through high quality technology and tracking devices, and the use of encrypted phones, all of which furthered their criminal business and concealed it from police.

“The extent of their criminality should not be underestimated. They were making vast profits from trading the deadliest commodities to anyone who would pay the price. Removing them from our streets will certainly have a detrimental effect on the supply chain, and every weapon we recover, and every criminal we arrest is another potentially fatal incident stopped.

“We’ve been working relentlessly to tackle firearms enabled criminality, and in the last year, we’ve seen dozens of high-risk offenders from the upper echelons of organised crime jailed for almost 300 years, with firearms recoveries and seizures increasing thanks to proactive operations like this.

“In this case and in so many others, information from communities is crucial, so if you know where dangerous weapons are being stored, carried or used, let us know and we will take positive action.”