A FORMER Huddersfield pharmacist allegedly duped into storing two million stolen pills is to face a retrial.
Hafiz Noorullah, 43, of Fartown, was accused of keeping £1.7m worth of breast cancer, heart disease and Parkinson’s medication in his warehouse while a buyer was found for them.
London’s Southwark Crown Court was told the load 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 a private detective spotted the medicines for sale on the internet.
After nearly six hours of deliberations, jurors cleared Noorullah of distributing medicine or products in breach of his wholesale dealer’s licence.
But they were discharged after failing to reach a verdict on one charge of handling stolen goods “on or before” November 11, 2007.
Mr Andrew Bird, prosecuting, said he would be seeking a retrial on that count, although its timing depended on what progress was made extraditing Aziz from Canada.
A hearing was fixed for December 18.
Noorullah was told he could remain on unconditional bail in the meantime.
Mr Bird said the private investigator contacted the drugs company and after being given permission to make further inquiries, used a false name to pose as a buyer “to get to the bottom of what was going on”.
In due course he was offered more than two million tablets for £2.2 million. This was £500,000 more than they were worth.
Finally, on October 13, 2007, the investigator and a colleague armed with a hidden camera met Noorullah at Wakefield railway station. Also there was “seller” Mahmoud Aziz, 52, and a middleman.
The two “customers” were told the goods were being stored in a warehouse in Meltham, owned by the defendant’s company Ahz Pharmaceuticals Ltd and licensed by the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Police raided the premises at a follow-up meeting, seized 180 containers full of tablets, and arrested both Noorullah and Aziz.
But the former chemist, of Pateley Crescent, insisted he had no idea his alleged partner in crime – who later skipped bail and fled to Canada – was anything other than a legitimate trader.
The defendant explained that after being struck off as a pharmacist in 1998, he concentrated on various business ventures in Huddersfield before moving into the wholesale medicines trading market.
He set up a new company called Ahz Pharmaceuticals and obtained a licence from the MHRA to import and export medicines within the EC.
He said Aziz first contacted him in late 2007, repeatedly promised him he was exporting medicines to Iran and China, as well as the “war zones” of Iraq and Afghanistan, and asked if he could store them.
Noorullah told the court MHRA licence restrictions were “in the forefront of my mind not least because we were dealing with medicines for human consumption”.
But in the light of Aziz’s reassurances, he agreed to help him.