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New instructions for Lewis Nedas Law specialist criminal and fraud defence solicitors

  1. cuffsLeila Abdul-Rasool has been instructed in an insurance fraud (and related money laundering matters) to the value of £500,000;

  2. Siobhain Egan has been instructed in the following matters:

    a) two more individuals seeking to overturn their convictions sustained as a result of sting entrapments by the 'Fake Sheikh' Mazer Mahmood;
    b) a professional man facing allegations of pharmaceutical fraud;
    c) a finance professional accused of fraud;
    d) two senior finance professionals acting as NED's, facing investigation by HMRC and the FCA re regulatory and professional disciplinary issues.

  3. Miles Herman is acting for:

    a) a client facing investigation into money laundering to the value of £1.5million (cross border transactions);
    b) a senior finance professional accused of illegal pornography offences.

  4. Jeffrey Lewis instructed again by a client in another complex tax evasion allegation.


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NCA Uncovers Drug Smuggling and Gun-Running Group Disguised as Flower Seller

The National Crime Agency assisted by the Dutch National Crime Squad, has dismantled an organized crime group which used a wholesale flower business to disguise their criminal activity.

The Lancashire based group used the flower business as a cover to hide their illegal drug and gun-running activities. The North-West network smuggled heroin, cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis as well as firearms and ammunition from continental Europe through the Channel ports and into the UK to their depot in Accrington, where they sold to drug dealers to be distributed throughout the UK.

The group was headed by Dutch National, Mohammed Imran Bhegani, who was sentenced to sentenced to 36 years in prison. His right hand, Sajid Osman, was given a prison sentence of 26 years. The lorry driver, Pieter Martens, was jailed for 24 years for his role in importing the goods.

Other co-conspirators were given sentences ranging from 27 moths to 17 years.

Seizures of Drugs and Firearms in 2014

The men were charged in relation to four separate seizures made in 2014. Three of these seizures were made at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Coquelles, northern France, and the other at the depot in Accrington. It is estimated that the drugs recovered by the NCA would have had a street value of up to £30 million.

During the first seizure in March 2014, Border Force officers discovered two firearms, a pistol and a submachine gun with a silencer and laser sight. The officers also found 28 rounds of ammunition, over 600 kilos of cannabis, one kilo of MDMA, 60 kilos of amphetamine, 50 litres of liquid amphetamine and six kilos of cocaine.

Less than two weeks following the first seizure, a second seizure was made involving a lorry at the Channel Tunnel, which contained nearly a tonne of cannabis, heroin, amphetamine and cocaine. However, the Dutch driver was cleared of the importation offences he was charged with.

Some months later on July 1, 2014, a truck was stopped at Coquelles containing30 kilos of heroin and 45 kilos of MDMA. The driver Nigel Watson from Telford was arrested.

International Cooperation

The NCA worked with its colleagues from the Netherlands to link all of the importations to the group leaders Mohammed Imran Bhegani and Sajid Osman. The agencies discovered that the men had been responsible for an additional 13 runs from continental Europe to the UK.

Greg McKenna, NCA head of investigations said:

“As this criminal network was an international one, so too was our investigation, and we have received invaluable assistance from our colleagues in the Dutch National Crime Squad and from Border Force here in the UK.”

Bhegani had been responsible for arranging the delivery of the consignments to the depot in delivered Albion Mill, Accrington. The property was rented and operated by Osman and Nizami Esshak.

The depot in Accrington was raided by NCA officers on 26 August 2014, where Osman and Essack were arrested. Two of their associates posing as ‘cistomers’, Taimur Zahid and Hussain Farooq, were also arrested when arriving at the premises to pick up drugs for sale. When raiding the premises, the NCA officers found three boxes containing flowers (part of their cover), alongside 12 kilos of cannabis in a car. Officers also seized over 200 kilos of cannabis from Albion Mill, along with notebooks evidencing their crimes which contained the details of customers and quantities to be supplied. A van outside contained a further 80 kilos of cannabis.

Bhegani was subsequently arrested at Esshak’s home in Accrington nearby the depot. The Dutch crime squad officers then raided properties that were linked to Bhegani in the Netherlands. There they discovered phones and SIM card that had been used to contact those involved in the group as contacts and drivers. They also found documents detailing their price lists and transfers of large amounts of cash. The lorry driver, Benny Planken, from the Netherlands was later arrested after being identified as the person responsible for importing cannabis discovered in Albion Mill.

All of the men were charged with offences related to importation, with. Esshak, Zahid and Farooq all pleaded guilty prior to trial. However, Bhegani, Osman, Watson and Planken were found guilty of conspiring to import drug following a jury trial Preston Crown Court on 22 February 2016.

Bhegani and Osman were also convicted of offences related to importing firearms. The men were sentenced at the same court last week, 10 March 2016.

Greg McKenna, head of investigations at the NCA said:

“In terms of organised crime, Mohammed Imran Bhegani was right at the top of the tree. He was an international drug dealer with high-level contacts in mainland Europe. Bhegani had the ability to transport vast quantities of illegal drugs and weapons from the continent and into the UK.”

This echos the recent speech made by Ms Owens, the new head of the NCA, who has made clear that the organization now intends to target the ‘untouchable’ highest level of criminals in the UK, who have international contacts.

McKenna elaborated:

“Working together we are determined to disrupt and bring to justice organised criminal groups involved in this type of smuggling.”

This appears to be the beginning of a new era for the NCA as the organization becomes more sophisticated and works together with its international partners.

How can Lewis Nedas help?

Lewis Nedas are a leading city firm with an enviable reputation for providing effective legal advice to complicated situations. Our team have experience of some of the most complicated cases concerning NCA investigations, allowing us to give our clients access to tenacious and highly knowledgable legal advisors. We have been actively involved in this field for many years, and take pride in offering our clients a comprehensive service: we will represent your interested in all discussions with regulatory bodies that are required; provide legal advice that is specific to your circumstances and interests; and, if the need should arise, protect your interests in any litigation. Contact our team now to find out how we can help you.

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