London: An Indian-origin gangster and his right-hand man, also from India, have been jailed for a total of 34 years by a UK court after they were convicted of drug smuggling and money laundering amounting to millions of pounds.
Gangster Baljinder Kang and his accomplice Sukhjinder Pooney led an eight-member gang who were all sentenced this week for their roles in laundering around 1.8 million pounds in drug money over a six-month period, including sale of 50 kg of ketamine.
Kang lived a luxurious lifestyle, spending money at Gucci, Ralph Lauren, and Harrods, wearing designer watches, driving expensive cars and travelling regularly to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK's Crown Prosecution (CPS) told the court.
The 31-year-old was arrested on his way to a UK airport to travel to Dubai and has been sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment after admitting to conspiracy to supply cocaine, conspiracy to supply ketamine, and to conspiracy to launder money earlier this year.
His 34-year-old accomplice Pooney, who helped run the organised crime group, was sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment after he admitted a conspiracy to launder money and was found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine last month.
They, along with other gang members, were sentenced on Friday at Kingston Crown Court after a series of trials and guilty pleas.
Baljinder Kang had a number of criminal associates who performed the hands-on work, said Giorgina Venturella, from the CPS.
He sought to keep himself as far as possible from the physical handover of drugs and money, and the laundering of the funds. He used several mobile phones at one time, relying on throwaway' phones when planning criminal activity. He sometimes took a more direct role, communicating and meeting with others to facilitate the handover of large sums of criminal money, she said.
According to the CPS, money launderer Pooney directed the actions of gang members Amir Ali, Aminoor Ahmed and Kieran O'Kane.
There were multiple strands to the conspiracy but the prosecution was able to prove each of these men knew they were part of a criminal endeavour," Venturella said.
Members of the gang supplied, cocaine and other illegal drugs, and transferred at least 1.8 million pounds in illicit profits offshore via sham company bank accounts, the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) concluded.
According to details that emerged during the criminal investigation, the gang laundered the cash through sham companies before sending the funds to a bank account in Dubai in the UAE.
Kang and Pooney regularly changed phones to avoid detection. A drugs ledger was found on Kang's bedside table detailing the sales and purchases of kilo quantities of drugs. He travelled to Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Wigan to arrange sales of drugs.
Kieran O'Kane, Amir Ali and Aminoor Ahmed had an active role in the operation; setting up limited companies in Slough, south-east England, and bank accounts, collecting and depositing vast amounts of money in circumstances where they could not have failed to appreciate that the money was criminal.
All members of the gang, exposed as a result of an elaborate joint investigation by the NCA and the Metropolitan Police Organised Crime Partnership (OCP), were sentenced to a total of nearly 70 years' imprisonment.