Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 17:12 UK

Men jailed over assassin kit guns

Kaleem Akhtar
Akhtar - self-styled "Big K" - supplied an "assassin's armoury" of handguns

Seven men behind the biggest gun running operation ever uncovered in the UK have been jailed for up to 20 years.

The gang, from Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Merseyside and Essex, were part of a scheme to import and convert blank-firing guns from Lithuania.

They were made into "assassin kits" with silencers and bullets and sold for 1,700, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Some 56 guns and 856 bullets were seized but police believe that is "only a proportion" of those in circulation.

The kits, described as "ballistic bling" became a status symbol favoured by violent street gangs and used in crimes in Scotland and the cities of Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds and Bradford.

Accurate and powerful

All the guns were Russian-made Baikal self-loading gas handguns, blank-firing weapons, which can be sold legally for around 100 in some European countries.

But every one had been expertly stripped down and re-barrelled, converting them to fire 9mm bullets, as accurate and powerful as factory-made weapons.

Leading the gang was businessman Kaleem Akhtar, 29, who, through a "desire for street cred and glory" teamed up with Liverpool cage-fighter Paul Wilson and gangster Mudassar Ali selling an "assassins armoury" to the underworld.

Madasser Ali, Paul Wilson, Asaid Saleem
Madasser Ali forged links with contacts and customers

Given a 350,000 home as a wedding gift by his family, Akhtar led a double life, at home the dutiful son with an arranged marriage, working in his millionaire family's clothing firm empire.

But behind his privileged and respectable background, self-styled "Big K" distributed the handguns to street gangs and major criminals.

Each of the Russian-made Baikal handguns were brought from Lithuania to Essex, then taken in batches to Manchester by Lithuanian brothers Agnius, 26, and Edgaras Malcevas, 39, who both lived in Essex.

Akhtar, 30, of Chorlton, Manchester, was found guilty in May of conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life. He was sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Ali , 30, of Bradford, West Yorkshire, was described as the lynchpin of the conspiracy, working with Akhtar to forge links with contacts and customers.

Guns sold on

He pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life. He was jailed for 18 years.

Paul Wilson, 37, of Southport, was one of Akhtar's customers.

Wilson, a career criminal and drug dealer who lived in a 1m house, bought the guns to sell on.

It is vital that the courts do everything within their powers to curtail gun-running activities
Judge Clement Golstone

He also pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge in May and has been sentenced to eleven-and-a-half years imprisonment.

Asaid Saleem, 27, from Trafford, was a friend of Akhtar's employed to package the guns into the assassin's kits and transport them to suppliers.

Saleem pleaded guilty in late 2007 to possessing firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life, possessing prohibited weapons and ammunition and possessing ammunition without a firearm certificate.

He also pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge in April. He was sentenced to a total of 10 years.

Agnius Malcevas, 26, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge, and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. He was jailed for 12 years.

The judge recommended that he be deported to Lithuania at the end of his sentence.

Agnius Malcevas, Edgaras Malcevas, Michael Peake
The Maclevas brothers drove the guns up to Manchester

His brother Edgaras Malcevas, 40, pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited weapon and possession of ammunition without a certificate. He was sentenced to five years' imprisonment.

The final member of the conspiracy was the first to be arrested.

Michael Peake , 44, from Liverpool, pleaded guilty last year to possessing firearms with intent to endanger life, and possession of a prohibited weapon.

He had been employed by Wilson to drive to Manchester to collect the guns from Akhtar. He was jailed for nine years.

Judge Clement Golstone, in passing sentence, said: "For those of us who live and work in Greater Manchester, and who read on a daily basis about the extent to which lives are ruled and ruined by those who carry and use guns with impunity, it is vital that the courts do everything within their powers to curtail gun-running activities."

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The gang were jailed for terms ranging from five to 20 years




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