Drugs gang’s £17m property empire seized by NCA
Fifty-nine properties worth an estimated £17 million have been seized and sold by the National Crime Agency (NCA) following an investigation into a “prolific organised crime group” that spanned almost a decade.
The NCA conducted four linked civil recovery investigations over an eight-and-a-half-year period into dozens of individuals who were suspected of financial links to drug dealers in East Birmingham.
Industrial premises, terraced houses and even a public gym were among the addresses targeted by the NCA in an inquiry that began in 2011.
NCA officers established that the properties were acquired using the proceeds of crime, including heroin importation and distribution, fraud and money laundering.
The gang would use family members and wider associates to hold properties on their behalf to conceal and launder their illicit funds.
The recoveries came after two of the gang, Alam and Ameran Zeb Khan, were convicted of drug trafficking offences, the former on three occasions.
The NCA 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 on Stoney Lane in Birmingham, that was being renovated as the Zeb Khan family home. One premises was a commercial building on Cherrywood Road that was converted into a gym called Rampage Fitness. Two of the properties consisted of seven and five apartments respectively.
Significant damage was caused to several of the properties prior to the NCA taking control of them, however, this did not ultimately interfere with their sale.
Andy Lewis, head of Asset Denial at the NCA, said: “This result displays the power of civil investigations working in tandem with criminal ones to take high-harm organised crime groups down.
“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.
“We will continue our work to scrutinise wealth we think is obtained from criminality, and take away their illicit assets.”
The NCA was first alerted to 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 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 July 2014, the NCA’s criminal investigation into the organised crime group started when Border Force officers intercepted a container of industrial lathes with 165kg of heroin, worth approximately £5 million uncut, concealed inside.
NCA investigators uncovered a criminal conspiracy to import heroin from Pakistan, and a group of eight men, including ringleader Ameran Zeb Khan, were jailed for a total of 139 years and four months at Birmingham Crown Court on July 14, 2017.
On October 31, 2016, a second civil investigation resulted in the NCA recovering 11 properties valued at £1.8 million 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. The NCA said they were associates of Alam Zeb Khan.
Two properties in Selly Park and Solihull worth £900,000 were then recovered from associates of Alam and Ameran Zeb Khan following a court order on July 10, 2018.
A further recovery order was granted in November 2018 for 33 properties with a total value of £12.5 million.
On June 28 last year, a final recovery order was granted over two further properties in Yardley and Bordesley Green.
The NCA said it was in the process of selling the last of these properties. The penultimate property, on Cherington Road in Birmingham, was sold for £265,000.
Proceeds from the sales of recovered assets are paid into the public purse, where it is used to help the continuing fight against serious organised crime.
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.”