Arfan Ullah shared a keypad code he had kept after being dismissed from Manchester Airport, enabling the thieves to sneak in and loot passenger’s luggage
Image: Cavendish Press (Manchester) Ltd)
A rookie airport worker enlisted up to 10 friends to help him plunder its lost property office in a raid after losing his job.
Arfan Ullah, 27, shared a keypad code he had kept after being dismissed, enabling the thieves to sneak into the store and loot passenger’s luggage which had been lost during transit, Birmingham Live reports.
As part of the overnight robbery at Manchester Airport, the gang even posed as holidaymakers, to make it appear they were the legitimate owners of the suitcases and bags they were stealing.
They booked a taxi to and from the airport to aid their getaways in plain sight, with the cab drivers unaware the luggage they were packing into the boot and back of their vehicles were stolen.
In two raids, three hours apart, the gang used the same suitcases they had stolen earlier to load up more items from the store. They later met at a rendezvous point to split the goods.
Staff at Excess Baggage Group Ltd – which had fired Ullah the previous month – only discovered the thefts when they clocked in for duty the next day.
They played back CCTV to see a total of five men pilfering the unit. It is thought a total of 10 people were involved in pulling off the raid.
Ullah, who had gambling issues, was arrested along with two other suspects, after one of the taxi drivers was traced by police.
Officials at the lost property office based at Terminal One were unable to quantify the value of the items missing.
It emerged members of the group had attended the unit two weeks before the overnight raid.
At Minshull Street Crown Court, Ullah, now a university student of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, and warehouse worker Nikash Sultan, 29, of Birmingham, admitted burglary and were freed with 18 month community orders.
Both were ordered to pay £800 each, in compensation towards the missing luggage.
Ateeb Qaiser, 28, of Manchester, did not attend the hearing due to testing positive for Covid and will instead be sentenced on December 17 – he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a burglary at an earlier hearing.
The raid occurred on March 10, 2019, just four weeks after Ullah was let go by the lost property company.
Prosecutor Miss Helena Williams said: “Mr Ullah was in his probationary period and his performance was not satisfactory.
“Excess Baggage Group company, at Manchester Airport, collects lost property at the terminals and any items not claimed are moved to longer term storage overnight.
“The entrance for the burglary was at the car park located in terminal one. The door is unmarked and assessed by using a keypad lock. It seems Mr Ullah was given the keypad access code on February 7 – the day before he was let go.
“On the night of the incident itself, the last member of staff left at 4.45pm and the premises were locked and secured. But a staff member the following day noticed a number of items had been disturbed. CCTV footage was recovered during that evening which showed there were two entries, the first at 10.07pm and the second at 1.21am in the early hours of the following morning.
“It can be seen on the first entry that two males entered the room and obtained access by using the code. They then left with luggage items and returned to a taxi. At 1.21am three males returned to the room with the same suitcases they had took the night before.
“The taxi was traced and the driver admitted to taking three males to the airport. Two males left the taxi but a third male remained inside the taxi. He thought nothing of it.
“From the CCTV footage, it would seem Ateeb Qaiser was present during both entries. The first time he entered the premises with both males, but the other two males were not these two other defendants. He then acts as the lookout on the second occasion but it is not clear if he is with these two other males.
“Sultan was at the airport with Qaiser – they are seen getting out of a taxi and using an ATM. Mr Ullah was not present on either occasion, but he played a role in planning the incident and provided the door codes.
“There were a huge number of items missing; however, there are no accurate figures placed on the items taken by these defendants.
“Enquiries show one mobile phone was in regular contact with another phone and Mr Ullah’s phone had regular contact with ‘Nick’ which was Mr Sultan’s phone. Mr Qaiser and Mr Ullah sent seven tests and 10 calls. They were in frequent contact.
“There is evidence that they met up in Oldham the next day. Inquiries showed on February 25, they went to the unit which shows there was some degree of planning. Mr Ullah and Mr Qaiser did not answer any questions in the interview. Mr Sultan confirmed he was known as ‘Nick’ but largely did not answer any questions. We cannot place any figure on the items lost.”
In mitigation for Ullah, defence counsel Hunter Gray said: “He is deeply ashamed of his actions. He was immature at the time and has issues with gambling and misusing alcohol. He has not tried to excuse his behaviour and has taken steps to address his behaviour.
“He is currently studying at university and has ambitions for the future. He has been interviewed for a job as a hotel receptionist and is hopeful of getting that job. He is at a low risk of reoffending. This will be the first and the last time he is before the court.”
For Sultan, David Morton said: “He was only present on the second occasion of these two trips. He is now working in a Sainsbury’s warehouse but he needs to find his future and establish a trust with his colleagues. Finances are extremely tight for him.”
Sentencing Judge Tina Landale said: “This burglary was planned and was extensive and there were up to 10 people involved. Vehicles and taxis were used to get away. Ullah, you had a significant and crucial role. You used your knowledge of working there, which was a gross breach of trust. You provided the key codes to the premises and a high value of goods were stolen and these were targeted.
“It has not been possible to know the value or the quantity, but a large number of items were taken. It was clear you had been involved in communication in planning with Qaiser in advance of the burglary.”
In addition to the compensation fee, Ullah was also ordered to complete 220 hours unpaid work. Sultan must undertake 150 hours unpaid work.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.