A teacher who led a double life as a major cocaine dealer has been jailed for 21 years.
Mohammed Sarwar taught IT at Burnage Media Arts College and was well-respected for his community work in south Manchester.
But, unknown to colleagues, pupils and parents, the 30-year-old business graduate was boss of a gang which sold cocaine wholesale to drug dealers.
Sarwar, known as ‘The Teacher’ in the criminal underworld, also took part in two foiled plots to smuggle cannabis to Mark Hunt, a convicted drug dealer friend serving time at Forest Bank Prison. He was found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine and conspiracy to supply cannabis in a trial last month, at which five others were acquitted.
In the first conspiracy Robert Hart, a prison officer on Hunt’s wing, was recruited to smuggle 88 grams of cannabis inside for a £400 fee. But he was arrested minutes after a handover at Longsight Market in September 2008. Weeks later, Sarwar, of Ladybarn Lane, Ladybarn, passed a small quantity of drugs to Nicola Whitehead, girlfriend of another serving prisoner, in the car park of Forest Bank.
The pair were being watched by undercover police officers, and Whitehead was arrested moments after passing the drugs to her lover, Andrew Harrison, in a kiss. In 2009, while Sarwar was awaiting trial for the cannabis offence, Ben Davidson – a petty villain he had employed to courier cocaine –turned ‘supergrass’ and told the authorities what else the teacher had been up to.
Police from anti-gang crime unit Xcalibre already had suspicions that Sarwar was involved in cocaine dealing. They had planted a bug in his car and had been secretly trailing him around the city because of his links to known criminals.
The M.E.N. can reveal that the surveillance operation recorded Sarwar talking in detail about cocaine with a pupil. He was also seen taking the boy to what police suspected was a drug deal at a retail park in Salford.
Davidson’s testimony bolstered the evidence from the surveillance operation.
He claimed that he was paid to ferry kilos of cocaine – worth up to £36,000 each – to different gangs. He also provided details of how Sarwar meticulously planned the conspiracy to avoid detection, regularly changing phones and using a ‘stash-house’ in Wilmslow, run by co-defendant Leanne Bryan.
No drugs were ever recovered but police did discover a hydraulic press contaminated with cocaine in a raid on Ben Davidson’s Stalybridge home, a property supplied to him rent-free by Sarwar. A kilo of benzocaine – a cutting agent used to make cocaine go further and increase profits – was found at Miss Bryan’s home.
Sam Stein QC, defending, said there were ‘two sides’ to Mr Sarwar, one dedicated to teaching and community work, the other ‘involved in crime’.
The court heard he had brought ‘shame’ upon his respectable family. Sarwar looked stunned as Judge Roger Thomas QC ordered him to serve a total of 21 years.
"You qualified as a teacher, you could have led a lawful, decent life – you have done so such thing," he said. "Instead of putting your intelligence and resources to good and helpful use, you have put them to very unlawful purposes."
Det Insp Chris Packer, from the Xcalibre Organised Crime Unit, said: "He had a duty of care to all his pupils to set them on the right path as they become adults. However, by masterminding a drugs network he abused his position and set the worst sort of example possible."
Ian Fenn, the school’s headteacher, said he felt betrayed after learning of his former colleague’s crimes. He said: "The conviction of Mr Sarwar left me with a profound feeling of betrayal, but with the sentence of 21 years I am satisfied that justice has been done."