LONDON: The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) on Wednesday released details of the recovery of 59 properties worth an estimated 17 million pounds following an eight-year investigation to bust a Pakistani drugs gang operating out of the West Midlands region of England.
NCA investigators had earlier uncovered a criminal conspiracy to import heroin from Pakistan, and a group of eight men, including ringleader Ameran Zeb Khan, were imprisoned for a total of 139 years and four months by Birmingham Crown Court in July 2017.
It then conducted four linked civil recovery investigations into dozens of individuals who were suspected of financial links to the drug dealers and established that the properties were acquired using the proceeds of crime, including heroin importation and distribution, fraud and money laundering.
“This result displays the power of civil investigations working in tandem with criminal ones to take high harm organised crime groups down,” said Andy Lewis, Head of Asset Denial at the NCA.
“Over several years, our officers have painstakingly identified unlawfully-held assets worth millions of pounds, and ensured that the subjects will no longer benefit from them,” he said.
The majority of the 59 properties recovered were private residential properties, which were rented out in the Bordesley Green or Selly Oak areas of Birmingham.
Three properties were located in the seaside town of Bangor in Northern Ireland.
Larger properties recovered included a house worth 235,000 pounds on Stoney Lane in Birmingham, that was being renovated as the Zeb Khan family home.
One premise was a commercial building on Cherrywood Road that was converted into a gym called Rampage Fitness. Two properties consisted of seven and five apartments respectively.
The NCA said it is in the process of selling the last of these properties, with the penultimate property has been sold for 265,000 pounds on Cherington Road, Birmingham.
Proceeds from the sales of recovered assets are paid into the public purse.
Graeme Biggar, Director General of the National Economic Crime Centre, said: “We are determined to stop criminals profiting from their crime. Where criminals have bought properties with illicit funds, in Birmingham, Bangor or anywhere in the UK, we will use all the powers at our disposal to identify them and to seize them.”
The NCA adopted the first civil investigation into the Organised Crime Group following a referral from the Police Service of Northern Ireland in December 2011.
This initial investigation led to the NCA recovering 11 properties and cash from two bank accounts totalling 1.75 million pounds on January 20, 2017, after Ameran and Aurang Zeb Khan and their associates failed to refute allegations that cash and assets were the proceeds of crime.
In October 2016, a second civil investigation resulted in the NCA recovering 11 properties valued at 1.8 million pounds from Riaz Ali Shah, Namit Ali Khan and their associates.
The two men were businessmen who were believed to be laundering money for the group and were associates of Alam Zeb Khan, the NCA said.
Two properties in Selly Park and Solihull worth 900,000 pounds were then recovered from associates of Alam and Ameran Zeb Khan following a court order in July 2018.
A further recovery order was granted in November 2018, for 33 properties with a total value of 12.5 million pounds.
In June 2019, a final recovery order was granted over two further properties in Yardley and Bordesley Green.
The NCA said that civil recovery claims focus on the property as opposed to the person and whether property is recoverable or not is determined by the High Court on the civil standard of proof namely, the balance of probabilities.
Any profit which accrues from the recoverable property is also recoverable property.