A man convicted of money laundering after being found in possession of 65 Nokia Vertu handsets in 2007 has been ordered to hand £1 million over to the Government after failing to prove he obtained the money legally.
Southall-based Narinder Sandhu, 40, was told by Isleworth Crown Court this month that he had to repay £999,713.21 after investigators from the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU) located the cash in an off-shore bank account.
It is the highest value confiscated by the NMPCU in its five-year history.
Police first came across Sandhu when they found the stash of luxury handsets – which retail at around £3,000 each – at the house of an acquaintance of his named Mohammed Arfan.
Arfan, 23, from Slough, in Berkshire, had sold one of the phones on eBay. The item was one of a batch of 65, amounting to a total value of £194,000, originally stolen in an armed robbery in Hampshire in 2005.
Arfan told police he had received the stolen phones from Sandhu, who was then arrested. There is no suggestion Sandhu was involved in the original Hampshire robbery.
Both men were convicted of money laundering at Isleworth Crown Court in November 2007. Sandhu was sentenced to 22 months in jail and instructed to pay back £4,000 to two people who bought mobiles from him. Arfan received a two-year community order with a fine of £1,000.
The NMPCU then began Proceeds of Crime Act confiscation investigation against Sandhu to prove he had benefited from a criminal lifestyle.
NMPCU head Detective Superintendent Michael McNally said: “My unit has been able to bring about substantial reductions in mobile phone crime over the last three years using a variety of policing tactics and legislation.
“Our partnership approach with the Home Office and mobile phone industry has enabled us to ensure long-term reductions in mobile phone crime against a background of increased mobile phone ownership.”
This result sends a clear message to people stealing, handling and exporting stolen mobile phones we will use every tactic at our disposal to identify, arrest and restrain any unlawfully obtained assets.”