Indian-origin smugglers convicted in UK drugs gang bust

LONDON: An extensive criminal gang led by Indian-origin gangster Baljinder Kang and his right-hand man, also from India, has been dismantled by UK authorities as the duo were convicted of drug smuggling and money laundering amounting to millions of pounds.

While Kang had pleaded guilty to all the charges against him last month, his right-hand man, Sukhjinder Pooney was found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A banned drugs at Kingston Crown Court on Tuesday, having previously pleaded guilty to money laundering offences.

This investigation has systematically broken up a significant criminal organisation which operated across the south-east, west midlands and into the north of England, said John Coles, head of Specialist Operations for the National Crime Agency (NCA, which carried out a joint operation with the Metropolitan Police Organised Crime Partnership (OCP.

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,he said.

The investigation found that Kang and Pooney used encrypted smartphones as well as a succession of unregistered burner phones to traffic millions of pounds-worth of illegal drugs across England.

The proceeds were then deposited in cash into front company bank accounts, before being transferred to a destination account in Dubai.

During the course of the investigation, officers seized more than 1.4 million pounds in cash, with at least 1.8 million pounds more known to have been laundered by the criminal network.

The OCP operation resulted in the seizure of over 37 kgs of Class A drugsincluding heroin and cocaine with a street-level value of over GBP 3.5 million a handgun with ammunition, and 50 kg of ketamine.

Numerous additional drug deals were noted in ledgers found by officers searching Kang’s home address after he was first arrested in January 2018.

The court heard how despite having very little legitimate income, Kang lived a lavish lifestyle.

He purchased luxury goods from designer stores including Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Harrods and ownedes worth 12,000 pounds and 36,000 pounds.

He also leased a Mercedes and an Audi A3, and travelled regularly to the United Arab Emirates.

“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 this 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, ” saidDetective Superintendent Simon Moring, from the Met Police Central Specialist Crime.

All those found guilty will be sentenced on July 24 at Kingston Crown Court, near London.