'Premier League' dealer used ill-gotten gains to fund his lavish wedding

Faaris Zaman was found hiding in his parents' loft by officers
Faaris Zaman was found hiding in his parents' loft by officers -Credit:NCA

A Bradford dad who played a crucial and trusted role in a "Premier League" drug dealing operation was caught hiding from officers in his parents' loft.

Faaris Zaman, 27, fled the UK in 2020 after being arrested by officers from the National Crime Agency officers targeting offenders under its Operation Venetic, relating to EncroChat. Using the handle "oraclewarrior," Zaman had used EncroChat to supply cocaine and heroin. He had handled £1.3million in criminal profits.

As officers searched his family home in Bradford, they found £89,000 in cash, a vacuum packing machine and debt lists. Handwritten notes detailing buyers, prices and pick-up vehicles were discovered and demonstrated his role in deals dating back to at least October 2018.

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Zaman’s EncroChat messages showed he messaged other organised criminals to deal multiple kilos of cocaine and heroin, moving hundreds of thousands of pounds at a time.

In April 2020, Zaman was in contact with another user who arranged for cash to be delivered to him for counting. A picture of wads of bank notes was recovered from the device with messages confirming almost £140,000 had been received. Other messages showed Zaman in conversation with others about picking up hundreds of thousands of pounds from locations in the north of England on numerous occasions.

On another occasion, Zaman replied to a contact who asked for feedback on the ‘tops’ [cocaine] being supplied. Zaman said three people had said the drugs were ‘no good for wash or sniff’ [cocaine]. Numerous images of blocks of white powder were shared between users.

In May 2020, Zaman had a conversation with two users to try and provide a sample of ‘bottoms’ [heroin], describing it as ‘grade 8, clean taste’. Zaman sent a picture of the drugs to the user before delivering an amount to two addresses in Bradford.

Drugs discovered
Drugs discovered -Credit:NCA

Zaman was interviewed and released under investigation, but fled the UK soon after. The National Crime Agency said he returned clandestinely to avoid its officers, but he was tracked down to his family address and in October 2023, following a three-hour search, he was found in the loft.

He went on to admit two counts of conspiracy to supply class A drugs and conspiracy to possess criminal property. Zaman claimed he was primarily a money launderer on behalf of other EncroChat users but then had also become involved in the supply of class A drugs. He said he was not a leader in the group and was acting on instructions for other users.

At Bradford Crown Court on Wednesday, Recorder Mullarkey said Zaman had spent some of the proceeds from his crimes on “fine dining, clothes and gambling” and paying for his wedding in 2023.

Cash found
Cash found -Credit:NCA

Prosecutor Julian Jones told the court: "It was, the prosecution say, Premier League crime." Barrister Oliver Cook, for Zaman, conceded that his client had been a trusted member of the organisation because he was trusted to deal with valuable assets and the money realised by them.

Mr Cook submitted that Zaman had expressed genuine remorse and was aware of the disgrace his conviction had brought on his family.

Zaman was jailed for 11 years and seven months. Following the sentencing, National Crime Agency Operations Manager Nigel Coles said: “Faaris Zaman has suggested he played a lesser role in this drugs supply network but this was high level serious and organised criminality where his messages showed he was a significant and trusted operator.

“The messages obtained under Operation Venetic led us straight to Zaman who thought he was operating above law enforcement. The NCA is committed to protecting the public against criminals like Zaman, who fuel the illegal drugs trade, and will continue in our work to bring them to justice.”

Zaman used EncroChat to deal drugs
Zaman used EncroChat to deal drugs -Credit:NCA