"their extensive money laundering operation exploited the UK banking system"
Several drug traffickers have been convicted for laundering over £1.7 million in illicit profits and supplying class A drugs.
They were caught following a joint investigation by the National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police Organised Crime Partnership (OCP).
The gang was led by Baljinder Singh Kang, aged 32, from Tilbury, Essex, and his right-hand man Sukhjinder Pooney, aged 34, of Kent.
They directed the group by using encrypted smartphones as well as several unregistered ‘burner’ phones.
Members of the group trafficked millions of pounds worth of drugs across England. The money was then deposited in cash into front company bank accounts, before being transferred to an account in Dubai.
In total, officers seized over £1.4 million in cash, with at least £1.8 million more known to have been laundered by the gang.
The OCP seized over 37 kilograms of class A drugs, including heroin and cocaine with a street value of over £3.5 million. They also seized a loaded handgun and 50 kilos of ketamine.
Additional drug deals, including one representing “53¾” [kg] bought, were noted in ledgers found by officers searching Kang’s address after he was arrested in January 2018.
Kang lived a lavish lifestyle despite having very little legitimate income.
He bought goods from designer shops and owned watches worth £12,000 and £36,000.
He also leased a Mercedes and an Audi and travelled regularly to the United Arab Emirates.
John Coles, NCA head of Specialist Operations, said:
“This investigation has systematically broken up a significant criminal organisation which operated across the south-east, west midlands and into the north of England.
“The drugs that Kang and Pooney’s group trafficked will have contributed to violence and exploitation along the supply chain, while their extensive money laundering operation exploited the UK banking system to move money offshore.
“The threat from organised crime continues to grow, and there are many more groups in the UK engaged in similar activity to this group.
“The NCA and its policing partners are using all the means at our disposal to identify and disrupt them.”
Kingston Crown Court heard that leading up to October 2017, Kang regularly contacted prolific Wolverhampton drug dealer Aaron Chander to discuss the supply of class A drugs.
At a restaurant in Harrow, Middlesex, officers overheard Kang advising Chander that he could supply “10 for 26”.
This related to the supply of 10 kilos of cocaine for £26,000 per kg and was noted in one of Kang’s ledgers.
The ledgers provided evidence relating to Kang’s acts of money laundering. The highest figure referenced is “1,524,690 PAID”.
On October 2, 2017, officers watched Chander, Abda Saleh and Ferass Awwad meet at a Wolverhampton pub car park for the handover of seven kilos of cocaine.
All three drug traffickers were arrested and later jailed for a total of more than 30 years. They had pleaded guilty prior to their trial.
At Chander’s address, officers found a loaded 9mm Baikal pistol and ammunition, £250,000 in cash and 250g of crack cocaine.
On October 19, 2017, Amir Ali, an associate of Pooney was spotted by officers going to a Barclays bank in Halifax, West Yorkshire.
He deposited £50,000 cash into the account of a fraudulent company called Layton Commodities Ltd.
Ali then drove to an industrial estate in Wakefield, where another car flashed its lights.
Ali got into that car and after identifying that he was the correct recipient, he was handed a large holdall. He then returned to his own car.
He had met with Hummaad Khadim and Omer Sattar. Both were eventually arrested.
However, Khadim had tried to drive away at speed, knocking down an officer and ramming three police vehicles blocking his path.
The bag contained £100,100 in cash. In total, 33 empty £5,000 cash deposit bags were found Ali’s car and address, all labelled as payable to the drug trafficker’s front accounts for eventual transfer.
On October 27, investigators arrested Daljinder Bassi, an associate of Chander, as he drove from Birmingham to Wolverhampton with three kilos of heroin.
When his home was searched, officers found around £750,000 hidden in a wall cavity, which was accessed by a homemade pulley system.
They also found 25kgs of cocaine, heroin, hydraulic presses and mixing agents.
Bassi pleaded guilty to drugs and money laundering offences. He was jailed for 13 years.
On November 14, 2017, Kang met Dinesh Nadesan, another associate, at a Croydon Pizza Hut, where he arranged another money laundering venture.
The next day, Kang and Pooney went to a pub in Heston where they watched their money courier, Aminoor Ahmed remove a suitcase from a car.
The vehicle was driven by Nadesan’s uncle Chandra Suppu. Officers moved in and arrested Ahmed and Suppu. The drug traffickers had quickly left the scene.
Kang said: “F*****g hell, police… they got him.”
However, he was unaware that he passed a surveillance officer.
The suitcase was linked to Nadesan through DNA. It contained £250,000 in cash. Suppu, Nadesan and Ahmed all pleaded guilty to money laundering.
Kieran O’Kane had set up the Layton Commodities account and deposited huge sums of cash into it. He and Ahmed were both arrested.
Ahmed had set up a fake account called Lushman Solutions Ltd on November 29. Ahmed also made the money appear legitimate by creating false financial records.
Police found out that O’Kane and Ahmed had deposited and laundered £345,000 through banks across England in a ten day period.
On December 19, officers watched a meeting take place between Abid Rasul and Webster Kenton. They exchanged 50 kilos of ketamine with a street value of £1.25 million.
Phone records revealed that Kenton regularly contacted Kang in the lead up to the deal.
Kang and Pooney were arrested on January 31, 2018.
On June 11, 2019, Sukhjinder Pooney was found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A drugs. He previously admitted to money laundering.
Kieran O’Kane was convicted of money laundering.
Prior to the trial, Abid Rasul fled to Pakistan. He was convicted in his absence of conspiracy to supply class B drugs. Webster Kenton was also convicted of the same charge.
Baljinder Kang pleaded guilty to all charges on May 23, 2019.
Amir Ali and Aminoor Ahmed also admitted to the charges against them on 23 and 24 May respectively.
Following the convictions, Detective Superintendent Simon Moring said:
“This was a lengthy and thorough operation involving extensive joint work between a dedicated team of Met and NCA staff, all of who are committed to dismantling organised criminal gangs.
“I hope that today’s result is a stark reminder to those involved in organised criminal activity that the Organised Crime Partnership is far-reaching and will use all powers available to us to secure a conviction.”
The drug traffickers and money launderers will be sentenced at Kingston Crown Court on July 24, 2019.