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Crime

Organised crime group members get 25 years prison plus suspended sentences

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MEMBERS of a South Wales Organised Crime Group (OCG) which sold illegal tobacco, cigarettes and Nitrous Oxide while money-laundering more than £1.5m were sentenced today to a total of 25 years of immediate imprisonment and 9 years as suspended sentences, at Swansea Crown Court.

All eleven members of the OCG initially pleaded not guilty to a fraud in excess of £1.8m carried out between September 6, 2013, and February 5, 2022. 

But during an initial trial three defendants changed their plea to guilty part way through, and two more defendants pleaded guilty during a second trial in which the remaining six defendants were found guilty of fraud by unanimous verdict.

Four members of the criminal organisation were also found guilty of money laundering offences to the value of more than £1.5million.

During the investigation, officers from Cardiff, and Bridgend and Vale councils’ Shared Regulatory Services (SRS) seized £600,000 of illegal tobacco, based on market cost, along with £12,500 worth of Nitrous Oxide cannisters.

The operation against the gang began in February 2020, following intelligence that several shops in the South Wales area were selling illegal tobacco and Nitrous Oxide. Significant amounts of cigarettes and tobacco were seized initially, but the shops appeared to restock immediately, and continued to sell the illegal products to the local community, including children.

The criminal group operated their business from at least seven shops in South Wales, most were in Cardiff but shops in Barry and Bridgend were also used including:

  • Best European Food Ltd, Clifton Street, Cardiff
  • Laz Mini Market. Clifton Street, Cardiff
  • Barry Stores, Tynewydd Road, Barry
  • European Shop, Holton Road, Barry
  • World and Food Ltd, Holton Road, Barry
  • Apna Bazaar Bridgend Ltd, Dunraven Place, Bridgend
  • European Mini Market, Tudor Street, Cardiff.

The gang used the shops as a front, appearing to sell genuine products and other legitimate produce, but in fact, an intricate subterfuge was being carried out with flats above the shops and other hidden spaces used to hide huge amounts of illegal tobacco which was being sold to customers.

The court heard that at a conservative estimate, each shop was making approximately £1000 a day from selling illegal tobacco and Nitrous Oxide, with the total value of illegal sales estimated at £3.8m.

Some of the illegal tobacco was stored in Safestore units or in the defendant’s homes, with the tobacco and cigarettes being moved in cars with blacked out windows to the shops and the flats above late at night or in the early hours of the morning.

The illegal tobacco was often stored in large, concealed spaces in the shops or the flats. Powerful, remote controlled, electric magnets were used to unlock these spaces which were invisible to the human eye and only found by using sniffer dogs and by breaking through walls.

Other techniques the gang used to deliver their products included electric winches and plastic tubes linking the shop with the flat above, with tobacco being passed down a tube when a customer made a purchase.

Helen Picton, Head of shared Regulatory Services said: “Searches and test purchases at all seven shops resulted in £600,000 of illegal tobacco taken off the streets of South Wales. This is a mere fraction of the criminality in this case, as it doesn’t consider any cigarettes or tobacco that were sold by the criminal gang.

“Although they thought they were operating with impunity, what they didn’t know is that they were being monitored and as the two trials showed, there was overwhelming evidence for the juries to find them guilty of these offences. It was clear from the investigation that they believed they were entitled to carry out their fraudulent business and showed little remorse.

“‘Illegal tobacco does great harm in the community. Its cheapness and ease of supply are particularly attractive to young people and others on lower incomes, and it eliminates the price incentive for existing smokers to quit the habit. I’m delighted to see the successful conclusion of this long and extended investigation. Offenders need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products.”

Sergeant Jake Rollnick from South Wales Police said: “Officers from Cardiff and Vale Neighbourhood Policeing Teams worked closely alongside the Shared Regulatory Services and other government agencies in bringing these offenders to justice over a period of 18 months. It consisted of multiple warrants and intervention and just goes to show what we can achieve in partnership”.

Ten members of the OCG listed below were sentenced for carrying out a ‘business for a fraudulent purpose’ to the value of £1.8 million between September 6, 2013, until February 5, 2022. An eleventh, Karwan Mohammadi, was sentenced for the same offence, but over a shorter period of time, between January 7th, 2020, and February 25th, 2022. The sentence for each defendant is given below:

  • Ali Khaleel Hassan Aldarawish, 34, from Albany Road, Roath, Cardiff, was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment.
  • Shwan Kamal Sofizada, 32, from Caeglass Road, Rumney, Cardiff, was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment.
  • Abdulla Laksari, 37, from Alice Street, Butetown, Cardiff, was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment.
  • Farhard (Farman) Sofizadeh, 32, from High Street, Barry, was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.
  • Saman Abobakir Sedik, 45, from High View Bridgend, was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.
  • Karwan Mohammadi, 31, from Canton Court, Riverside, Cardiff, was sentenced to 2 years suspended for 12 months with an unpaid work requirement of 150 hours of unpaid work.
  • Mariwam Mohammed, 38, from Gold Street, Adamsdown, Cardiff, was sentenced to 19 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months with 150 hours unpaid work and a 10-day rehabilitation requirement.
  • Aiysha Bibi, 24, from High Street, Barry, was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment suspended for 18 months with a 20-day rehabilitation requirement.
  • Rebin Hatam Ahmed, 32, from Drayton Street, Walsall, was sentenced to 19 months suspended for 12 months with unpaid work requirement of 100 hours and a 10-day rehabilitation requirement.
  • Alan Abdullah, 23, from Fleetwood Road, Leicester, was sentenced to 2 years suspended for 12 months with 100 hours of unpaid work and a 10-day rehabilitation requirement.

Crime

Woman gets payout after boss coughs in her face

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Kevin Davies, the father of British Lions and Wales rugby star Gareth Davies, has been ordered to pay more than £26,000 to a female employee for deliberately coughing in her face during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A tribunal heard that Davies, 62, aimed to “ridicule and intimidate” the woman, who had expressed concerns over her health due to psoriatic arthritis and an autoimmune condition. The incident occurred in the days leading up to the first lockdown in March 2020 at Cawdor Cars, a business where Davies holds significant involvement.

The employment tribunal, presided over by Judge Tobias Vincent Ryan, heard that the woman had requested colleagues to maintain social distance, in line with official recommendations, due to her vulnerable health status. However, Davies mocked her concerns, intentionally coughing in her direction while commenting that she was “being ridiculous.”

The tribunal was informed that the woman, employed at Cawdor Cars between 2017 and 2020, was earning £11 per hour. In addition to car sales, Cawdor Cars has a property rental section where she worked as a property manager overseeing a portfolio including hotels and housing developments.

Judge Ryan condemned Davies’ actions as “gross behaviour,” noting that other members of the firm’s management team, who witnessed the incident, gave evidence that was perceived as defensive and not entirely straightforward. The woman vehemently complained about the incident and resigned from the business in Newcastle Emlyn, Ceredigion, less than three months later.

Judge Ryan stated, “She resigned at least in part because she was victimised; this was a major and significant factor in her decision. She felt that she was being eased out partly because of her complaints. She was correct.”

The tribunal awarded the woman £26,438.84 in total compensation. This includes £18,000 for injury to feelings, £3,841.94 for unfair dismissal, and £4,596.90 in accumulated interest. Cawdor Cars has been ordered to pay the bulk of the damages, with Davies personally liable for the remainder.

Following the hearing, the woman described the impact of Davies’ conduct on her mental health, stating, “I was left a nervous wreck. He knew of my medical condition and that I had no immune protection because of the medication I had to take, and he deliberately coughed in my face. I was shaking. I’m not a silly, fluffy person; I’ve had to put up with a lot in my life, but it really got me.”

This ruling highlights the seriousness with which the tribunal viewed the deliberate intimidation and ridicule of an employee during the pandemic, particularly one with known health vulnerabilities.

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Crime

Ex-mayor gets suspended sentence for child images offences

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A FORMER mayor of Pembroke Dock has been given a suspended jail sentence for the possession and distribution of indecent images of children.

Terry Judkins, 55, from Bush Street, was sentenced at Swansea Crown Court after he admitted the charges.

Judkins pleaded guilty to two offences involving Category C images and possessing a prohibited image of a child between September 2018 and August 2021.

He also admitted making and distributing Category A images of the children, Category A being the most serious classification of indecent images.

The court was informed that 11 unique images had been duplicated numerous times across two digital devices and that 10 of the images in question were of a 17-year old known to Judkins.

Judkin’s defence barrister, David Maunder, told told the court the majority of the imagery involving the 17-year old was “enthusiastically consensual”.

It is a criminal offence to share indecent images of a person under the age of 18.

The other image involved teenage boys aged between 10 and 13 years.

Mr Maunder told the judge that the court was “not dealing with evidence of someone who is a committed pedophile”, however, Judkins had “dipped his toe into this kind of behavior, which he deeply regrets now”.

He added that the Judkins was of “positive good character” and he had subsequently suffered “shame and embarrassment” as a result of the offences.

Judge Catherine Richards informed Judkins that the nature of his case stood in “contrast with the positive reputation you gained”.

She continued that there “was no evidence” that there was large amounts of material associated with young boys other than the the Category A images of the 10-13 year old boys that Judkins possessed.

Richards said Judkins had distributed two images of a 17-year-old and stated that the law was “in place to protect young people.”

Judkins was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, deciding to give a Judkins a suspended sentence for two years for distributing indecent images.

The former mayor was also given a further six-month sentence, suspended two years, for making indecent images.

Both of the the devices used by Judkins, a computer and a mobile phone are now subject to forfeiture and destruction orders.

Judkins will also be required to attend a programme for people with convictions for downloading indecent images of children and will have his name added to the sex offenders register for 10 years.

He will return to court at a later date to confirm whether he will be subject to a sexual harm prevention order.

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Crime

Not guilty plea after man allegedly attacked in Haverfordwest

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A LAMPETER VELFREY man will face a trial after he denied grievous bodily harm.

Timothy Phillips, 50, was charged with causing GBH with intent, and a lesser alternative offence of unlawful wounding.

The court heard that Phillips attacked a man in Haverfordwest on September 16 last year.

Phillips pleaded not guilty to causing GBH with intent, but admitted unlawful wounding.

Judge Paul Thomas KC set a trial date of November 26, and granted Phillips bail until that date.

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