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Drug traffickers convicted after laundering millions through sham companies

ByRebecca Tuffin

A criminal group, which supplied class A drugs and laundered millions of pounds, has been shut down.

More than £1.4m in cash was seized during an investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Metropolitan Police Organised Crime Partnership (OCP), with at least £1.8m more known to have been laundered by the criminal network.

Heroine and cocaine were just some of the 37kg of drugs with a street value of £3.5m also recovered, alongside a handgun and 50kg of ketamine.

WATCH: Video includes footage of members of the criminal group

The organisation was led by Tilbury man Baljinder Kang, and his right hand man Sukhjinder Pooney, from Gravesend.

Pooney was found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A drugs having previously pleaded guilty to money laundering offences, at Kingston Crown Court yesterday.

One of his cash couriers, Kieran O’Kane, was also found guilty of money laundering, while Webster Kenton and Abid Rasul were convicted of conspiracy to supply class B drugs - Rasul in his absence having absconded while on bail.

Baljinder Kang pleaded guilty to all charges against him on May 23.

Sukhjinder Pooney
Sukhjinder Pooney

Money launderers Amir Ali and Aminoor Ahmed did the same, on May 23 and 24 respectively.

Careful tracking of the group and gathering of evidence by the investigation team began almost two years ago.

In October 2017, officers overheard Kang in a steak restaurant advising Chander he could supply "10 for 26", meaning 10kg of cocaine for £26,000 per kg.

Bajinder Singh Kang
Bajinder Singh Kang

Officers later arrested Chander, Abda Saleh and Ferass Awwad after watching them meet in a Wolverhampton pub car park for the handover of 7kg of cocaine.

That same month, Pooney's subordinate Amir Ali was seen entering a branch of Barclays in Halifax, West Yorkshire, where he deposited £50,000 cash into the account of a sham company called Layton Commodities Ltd.

Several other key events forced Kang and Pooney to watch their criminal operation crumble.

They were both arrested on January 31 last year. Kang lived a lavish lifestyle.

More than £1m was recovered from the criminal group
More than £1m was recovered from the criminal group

He owned watches worth £12,000 and £36,000, leased a Mercedes and Audi A3, and also used his criminal earnings to buy luxury goods from designer stores such as Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Harrods.

Earnings from trafficking millions of pounds worth of illegal drugs were put into front company bank accounts, to hide them from public view, before being transferred to a destination account in Dubai.

The group used encrypted smartphones to stop unauthorised people reading their messages and burner phones, which have not been registered to any user, to direct the group’s activity.

Head of specialist operations at the National Crime Agency, John Coles, said: “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.”

The Met's central specialist crime detective superintendent, Simon Moring added: “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.”

Sentencing is scheduled for July 24 at Kingston Crown Court.

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