Cricklewood man who helped British soldiers before they went to Afghanistan is jailed for drug smuggling

A man from Cricklewood who helped British soldiers understand the language and culture before they were posted to Afghanistan was jailed today for importing skunk cannabis.

Atal Qayoom, 25, of Chiltern Gardens, was caught when he went to collect 3.18 kilograms of the drug that had been sent from Holland to the Yodel depot in Borehamwood.

St Albans Crown Court heard the drug had a wholesale value of between £9,000 and £12,000 with a street vale of around £31,000.

After his arrest in December 2013 text messages were sent to his phone which said: “Where the hell are you?”, “Where are the drugs?” and “If you are trying anything you better think long and hard about it.”

Srikanthanrajah Nereshraaj, Qayoom’s lawyer, told the court he had come to the UK with his family when he was eight after the Taliban had taken control of Afghanistan.

While studying for a degree at Hertfordshire University, he was paid £80 a day to give language and culture advice to soldiers at Thetford and Salisbury before they went on tour.

While carrying out the work he said he met other Afghanis and he started smoking cannabis. He naively became involved in agreeing to allow cannabis to be sent to his home.

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At the time of the offence the work from the army had dried up as British troops were leaving Afghanistan and his client, who was of previous good character, had been on Job Seekers’ Allowance.

An iPad seized from his home revealed he had made two trips to Amsterdam in the previous month He is

Qayoom, who is now working as a stock controller, admitted conspiracy to import cannabis.

Jailing him for nine months, Judge Stephen Warner said he was passing a lower sentence to reflect the mitigation including the help he had given the army.

He said: “You allowed a significant quantity of cannabis to be delivered. It is a tragedy that you allowed yourself to become involved.”