A NEWPORT-based gang was caught with £4 million of heroin in the "largest ever" seizure of the drug in a Welsh investigation, a court heard yesterday.

Seven defendants are on trial at Cardiff Crown Court accused of involvement in the business dealing "industrial quantities" of the Class A drug. One acted as the "banker" while others transported heroin or money or provided a safe house for storage between October 27 2013 and January 30 this year, the court heard.

Shazia Ahmed, 37, of Leonard Street; Wasim Ali, 29, of Harrow Road;both Newport, Zawed Malik, 40, of Tameside, Manchester, and Khalid Yassen, 29, Umar Arif, 28, Tracy Ford, 38, and Umar Butt, all of Cardiff, deny conspiracy to supply heroin.

Another five men including "king pins" Imtiaz Ali and Mohammed Sajjad have admitted the same charge, the jury was told.

Police shut down the alleged drugs ring after Imtiaz Ali, of Ebenezer Street in Pill, decided to relocate the business in a panic after drivers had been intercepted by police, prosecutor Christopher Rees told the court during his opening speech.

He said Butt and Yassen were told to drive the stockpile of heroin to Birmingham.

The two loaded the car up in Ringland and started to drive in convoy with Sajjad leading the way, he added.

But Butt and Yassen did not arrive as police pulled over their Citroen Picasso on the side of the M5, the court heard, and found 36.5kg of heroin - "a vast quantity" - in a suitcase and hidden in a speaker.

If this cargo had reached the streets it would have been worth around £3 million, Mr Rees said.

On January 20, Newport taxi driver Wasim Ali had been intercepted trying to ferry half a million pounds worth of heroin from Cardiff to Newport in a carrier bag stacked in the passenger seat footwell, the prosecution claimed.

Ali told police he did not know what was in the bag, Mr Rees said.

Money was kept and counted at a shoe shop on Commercial Street in Newport, he alleged, saying Ahmed organised finances from her shop R'Evage.

Mr Rees claimed Imtiaz Ali left the shoe shop with a suitcase "stuffed to the gills full of cash" on November 18 last year, which he passed to Malik to drive to the Manchester area.

Malik was stopped by police at a service station near Symonds Yat as he drove from Newport to Manchester with £223,555 in bags of cash, the prosecution said.

But Mr Rees said he claimed to be acting as a private hire driver.

Fingerprints from Ford were found on one of the bags, Mr Rees said, along with a receipt with her credit card details. He alleged Ford and her partner operated a "safe house" for distribution.

The alleged conspiracy was investigated by police in Operation Frank, Mr Rees said.

He told the jury: "The value of the heroin recovered, the prosecution say, if it had been sold on the streets of South Wales was well over £4 million.

"It is the largest ever seizure of heroin in a Welsh investigation.

"Large quantities of money as well were seized from defendants who are in the dock today."

Regarding Wasim Ali, he said: "It would be common sense, wouldn't it, if you were going to give half a million pounds of drugs to someone it would be a person you could trust."

He added: "Mr Sajjad and Mr Ali would handpick trusted friends and associates to involve in this lucrative, multimillion pound business.

"The prosecution say pleas of guilty prove there was a conspiracy to supply industrial quantities of heroin on the streets of South Wales."