Drugs kingpin ordered to repay £200,000 of criminal gains

A drugs kingpin involved in smuggling huge quantities of ecstasy into South Yorkshire has to pay back over £200,000 of his criminal gains.

Tuesday, 24th May 2016, 2:19 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2016, 2:23 pm
Shawyat Iqbal and Tahir Ismail, from Rotherham, were sentenced for 22 years each having been found guilty of conspiring to import drugs into the country in 2013.

Former property developer and landlord Tahir Ismail was jailed in 2013 for 22 years for his leading role in a multi-million pound drugs ring.

A court has now ordered Ismail to pay £209,354.67 within three months or face a further three years in jail.

He now needs to sell houses in Rotherham which he owned to pay back the debt, with an Audi registered to him also classed as a ‘realisable asset’ that can be sold.

It followed a hearing at Sheffield Crown Court in which members of Ismail’s family claimed they had financial stakes in properties he owned despite them being solely in the defendant’s name.

Judge Peter Kelson QC rejected their accounts in relation to properties on Doncaster Road and Oakwood Road.

Ismail’s criminal gains from the drug smuggling operation was estimated to be £913,102.12.

But the court found that he had just over £200,000 of ‘realisable assets’ that could be recovered.

Ismail, aged 38 and previously of Beaconsfield Road, Broom Valley, was linked to the drug smuggling operation after a Dutch national Ozkan Duyan was stopped by customs officials in Dover in December 2011 where he was found to be transporting 24kg of MDMA.

Investigations revealed Duyan had been on four previous drug trafficking trips - with Ismail found to be part of the conspiracy and having to travelled to Holland himself on two occasions to help organise the movement of the ecstasy into the UK.

He was arrested along with fellow Rotherham man Shawyat Iqbal in March 2012, with another Dutch co-conspirator Casper Schrijer arrested the month before.

Ismail was convicted at Sheffield Crown Court in March 2013 on the basis he had a ‘leading role’ in the conspiracy, having been involved in four of Duyan’s five drug-smuggling operations.

Judge Kelson said he was satisfied Ismail was the sole owner of properties on Doncaster Road and Oakwood, despite claims to the contrary from him and his family.

He also ruled Ismail had hidden money related to his development of Milburn House, a derelict former pub in the Thrybergh that the defendant was involved in turning into a block of flats.

The judge rejected Ismail’s account that a rental transfer of £18,350 from Vision Housing was spent on the costs of the development project, saying there was no documentary evidence to support the assertion.

Judge Kelson said Ismail had said at the time he had been ‘impoverished’ and was relying on his family to feed him and pay his bills due to the debts he had built up in relation to the Milburn House project.

He said the defence had argued Ismail would have used any money he received to deal with his financial issues rather than using it for other purpose.

Judge Kelson said this account did not tally with the defendant’s involvement as a ‘main player’ in a drugs-smuggling operation with a ‘street value running into millions of pounds’ in the months before he received the Milburn House money.

The court also ruled a further loan of £45,500 relating to the Milburn House project that was never repaid was a ‘hidden asset’, as the defence could produce no evidence of what the money was spent on.

An Audi car that Ismail had told the court had been scrapped was also included as an asset after the prosecution was able to prove the car still existed.

Judge Kelson also ruled that housing benefit payments, which saw cheques relating to Ismail’s properties cashed at a Cash Converters while he was under criminal investigation and his assets were frozen, could also be classed as hidden assets.

He rejected the claim they were cashed by ‘rogue tenants’.

Judge Kelson said: “This has all the hallmarks of an attempt to avoid a restraining order [on the properties].”

Stephanie Jeavons, deputy director of the NCA’s Economic Crime Command, said: “Criminals should take this court order as notice.

“The NCA and its partners do not stop at conviction – we will use also use the full force of legislation to ensure any profits made through criminal conduct are recovered from those who do not deserve them.”