A PHARMACIST from Huddersfield was recruited by a gang to help sell millions of stolen tablets.
Hafiz Noorullah allegedly allowed his Meltham warehouse to be turned into a secret storeroom for the £2.2 million consignment while a buyer was found.
The 43-year-old from Pateley Crescent in Fartown is on trial at London’s Southwark Crown Court
The jury was told the consignment had been en route from the Swiss headquarters of pharmaceutical giant Novartis to a distribution depot in Thatcham, Berkshire, when it was stolen in 2005.
It resurfaced two years later when private detective Andy Hunter spotted its contents for sale on the internet.
Andrew Bird, prosecuting, said he contacted the drugs company and was given permission to make further inquiries.
“Using the false name of David Mason, he posed as a buyer to get to the bottom of what was going on,” said Mr Bird.
A series of emails were exchanged and, in due course, he was offered more than two million tablets.
The jury was told that the stolen pills included 1.64m of Comtan, used to treat Parkinson’s disease, 489,000 of Lopressor, which helps fight heart disease by lowering blood pressure, and 329,000 Femara breast cancer tablets.
The investigator was told he could have the lot – really worth £1.5m – for £2.2m.
Mr Bird said: “Finally, on October 13, 2007, Mr Hunter and a colleague called Mr Kelly – who had a hidden camera – ended up at Wakefield railway station where they met the defendant.’’
He told the court also there was a seller, 52-year-old Mahmoud Aziz, and a middleman.
Mr Bird added: “The prosecution says that is of particular importance in that they were selling the products as genuine Novartis and stressing they were being held in a genuine warehouse approved by the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.”
That, he claimed, ‘explained’ Noorullah’s role. As a pharmacist who had since been struck off, the defendant, head of a company called Ahz Pharmaceuticals Ltd, could offer ideal storage facilities in Meltham.
Mr Bird said: “It lent added respectability. They weren’t being sold off the back of a lorry or from a pub. They were being sold from an approved warehouse.”
Mr Bird told the court Aziz went on to claim the pills had originally been intended for export to Iran, but the deal fell through.
“We say that was false. They had been stolen.”
Jurors heard that having seen the tablets packed in more than 180 mostly plastic bucket-type containers, the ‘pretend purchase negotiations’ continued until a follow-up meeting when police were waiting.
Both Noorullah and Aziz – who later skipped bail and has not been traced – were arrested.
The former chemist was eventually interviewed and denied doing anything wrong.
He described meeting two men, one of them Aziz, being ‘impressed by his credentials’ and agreeing to store some goods for them.
Noorullah added that although he did not see any paperwork he never suspected anything amiss.
He denies one count of handling stolen goods ‘on or before’ November 11, 2007 and one of breaching his wholesale medicines licence.
Mr Hunter spoke to a woman in Mumbai, India, who told him she represented a company called Sino Pharmaceutical and that he would need to meet with Mr Aziz to arrange a sale.
In one recorded telephone conversation, she told Mr Hunter: “He’s based in Canada, but he has manufacturing facilities all over the world, including China.
“He is obviously trying to get rid of this Novartis stock.’’
Following a complex series of negotiations, the private detective met Aziz at Wakefield Railway station on October 13, 2007.
He was then taken to Noorullah’s warehouse on Station Street, Meltham, where the pills were being stored.
Mr Hunter said: “The main thing we were trying to do was to locate the stock, identify where it was and obtain samples to see if it was counterfeit, stolen or otherwise.’’
The court heard that unknown to Aziz, Mr Hunter’s colleague was fitted with a secret camera as both detectives were shown around the premises.
Jurors were shown the footage which featured Aziz apparently showing off the stock and discussing the different pills.
When the samples were analysed, it was discovered that they were indeed the stolen medicines from Thatcham.
The private investigators then informed police, who arrested Aziz and raided the warehouse.
The trial is expected to last the rest of the week.