March 12th, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
A British Pakistani-origin man has been jailed for life for plotting to assassinate Pakistani blogger Ahmed Waqas Goraya as police continue their investigations into establishing the identity and whereabouts of his handler.
On March 11, rhe Kingston Crown Court sentenced Muhammad Gohir Khan, a former east London businessman, to life imprisonment for conspiracy to murder Goraya in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. He was found guilty in a unanimous verdict delivered on January 28. Khan, 31, will have to serve at least 13 years before his release on parole.
Officers from Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terror Command had uncovered more than 2,000 WhatsApp messages between Muhammad Gohir Khan and his co-conspirator where they discussed and agreed to the contract killing of the Rotterdam-based Pakistani blogger and activist Goraya. It is thought that the victim was targeted due to his public profile and outspoken political views.
£80,000 hit money
From their inquiries, British detectives found that Khan – working at a supermarket at the time – believed he stood to receive up to £80,000 for carrying out the murder, the Metropolitan Police said in its statement.
“The dedication and diligence of counter-terrorism officers, Border Force colleagues and our Dutch law enforcement counterparts led to justice being served in this chilling case of conspiracy to murder,” said Commander Richard Smith from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.
“Khan fell foul of his own low cunning and artifice, and the investigation found he was willing to carry out a murder for financial gain, giving no regard for his intended victim,” Smith said.
“We were able to stop Khan from carrying out this murderous plot through cooperation with UK Border Force and our Dutch colleagues in the Rotterdam Counter Terrorism, Extremism and Radicalization (CTER) Unit who worked tirelessly alongside their SO15 counterparts throughout the investigation.
“Borders Officers at Rotterdam initially raised concerns over Khan as he was travelling back to the UK and following his arrest, and thanks to this vigilance and cooperation, our officers launched an investigation and were able to reveal his true intentions,” Smith added.
During interviews with SO15 officers, Khan maintained that he never intended to carry out the killing. He said he had no idea who the victim was, and that he was motivated to get involved in what they called ‘the project’ in order to profit from an individual called ‘Mudz’.
However, officers identified that WhatsApp communications about the planned killing began on 17 February 2021 between Khan and this individual.
Detectives uncovered thousands of messages between Khan and ‘Mudz – also referred to as ‘Ali’ ‘Zed’ and ‘Papa’ – detailing plans for the murder. They talked about the price of the killing to be paid on successful completion, the terms of the agreement, travelling to Rotterdam, where the victim might be found and what he looked like.
Probe ongoing to locate handler ‘Muzzamil’
Enquiries into establishing the identity and whereabouts of ‘Mudz’ remain ongoing, but detectives believe he may be a former business associate of Khan and goes by the name of ‘Muzzamil’. In the statement, the Metropolitan Police called on the public to share any information they had regarding ‘Mudz’ or ‘Muzzamil’ with the investigation team.
Having agreed to the conspiracy, 31-year-old former businessman left London via Eurostar on 17 June and arrived in Paris, before catching a bus to Rotterdam.
Border officials alerted by Khan’s nervous disposition
Khan stayed in Rotterdam for another few days but was unable to find the victim, and travelled back to the UK. Upon his arrival at St Pancras International on 23 June, he was greeted by police officers and stopped under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Border Officers in the Netherlands were concerned by Mr Khan’s nervous disposition, and had communicated this to colleagues at St Pancras, leading to them stopping and speaking with Khan on his return to London.
Khan’s cell phone unlocked conspiracy
Because Khan refused to provide officers with the PIN for his smartphone – a duty imposed on him as part of being stopped under schedule 7 – he was arrested, the phone was seized and an investigation launched. From this, officers were then able to gain access to Khan’s phone, which led them to uncovering the real reason for his trip to Rotterdam and his involvement in the conspiracy to murder.
Two days after his initial stop at St Pancras, on the morning of June 25, police executed a warrant at Khan’s home address and again arrested him. After further enquiries, Khan, a resident of Sprowston Road, was charged on June 28 with conspiracy to murder contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.