"We often find they are only small players in much bigger criminal organisations.”
A London pickpocket gang of 11 have been jailed for 30 years after stealing £5 million worth of mobile phones.
The thieves operated on stealing these phones on the Tube from the hours of 2pm to 10pm at night, earning almost £10,000 a day.
The gang were caught out when private properties and businesses in South West London were raided by over 100 officers.
The officers seized more than a thousand smartphones and £143,000 as part of British Transport Police (BTP)’s ‘Operation Park’.
The operation began almost two-and-a-half years previously, which has now resulted in the eleven involved in the gang being sentenced at Blackfriars Court on August, 13 and December, 8 and 21, 2015.
Two trials took place to convict the gang. One for conspiracy to handle stolen goods, and the other for money laundering offences.
Police believe that the gang made approximately £5 million pounds from their stolen goods.
At one of the addresses, police seized more than £23,000 which had been hidden all over the house, including inside a child’s jacket.
Nawid Moshfiq, 39, was discovered by the BTP to be the ‘boss’ of this gang, and directing his ‘staff’ to work in these specific office hours.
Moshfiq was sentenced to five years in jail for conspiracy to handle stolen goods.
Alongside this, another three years for money laundering and 18 months for possession of criminal property has been added to the jail time, which will run simultaneously.
Moshfiq’s associates, Olia Moshfiq, Paramjit Singh Kalra (42), Harmeet Bhatia (24), Pritbal Bhatia (55), Nirmohan Bhatia (20), Ranjit Banger (31), Mubarak Korasi (41), Ahmed Raza (28), Arijit Singh Sethi (43), and Nirmohan Singh (38), were also imprisoned.
BTP Detective Chief Inspector, John Justice, said:
“This was a long and complex investigation into a highly organised criminal gang who used stolen property from the rail network for their personal gain.”
John explained how the pickpockets are not the main issue, and how the larger organisation of robbery needs to be tackled too:
“To truly tackle theft, we can’t just catch pickpockets and petty thieves; we have to also dismantle the criminal networks behind them, who profit from this sort of crime.”
“Phones are often stolen out of view of CCTV in crowded carriages or busy stations without the owner even realising.
“This makes it hard for us to catch thieves in the act and even when we do, we often find they are only small players in much bigger criminal organisations.”
“This investigation shows how tirelessly we will work to bring these people before the courts and I welcome the sentences handed down to the defendants.”
The 11 members will face a total of 30 years in prison for their ill-gotten gains.