£500,000 gold auctioned off in Belfast was the smuggled treasure of '24 carat criminal'
More than £500,000 worth of smuggled gold has been sold at a Belfast auction.
Gold bars, bracelets, necklaces and rings were seized by customs officers during a major investigation into a multi-million pound transatlantic smuggling plot.
Mainly gold bars were sold during an online auction this morning, netting £522,000.
Another £500,000 is expected to be made during an auction of bracelets and other jewellery later. A total of £700,000 had already been realised beforehand.
Londoner Chaudry Ali, dubbed the '24 carat criminal', bought the gold in Dubai and brought it into the UK via Frankfurt to avoid VAT payments over a two-year period.
Ali had two couriers working for him, who he sent individually to Dubai to collect large amounts of gold jewellery from vendors.
The courier would then fly to Frankfurt and meet Ali in an airside lounge. They would then swap cases, and Ali would pick up the case containing the gold jewellery.
Ali was jailed for nine years in 2012. He was also ordered to pay back £4.3m of his criminal profits or serve an extra 10 years in prison.
Mike Parkinson, assistant director of fraud investigation at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), said that Friday's sale sent out a message that criminal assets would be pursued even after a conviction is secured.
"We will always look to reclaim illegal profits to bring them back into the UK economy," he said.
"If Mr Ali serves his 10 years in prison and does not pay back the assets that it is known he has got, we will still be chasing him for that money when he is released from prison."
Chiefs at HMRC branded him a '24-carat criminal' when he was finally caught out in 2012. Images from a raid by customs officers showed a laptop bag filled with gold jewellery, including hundreds of bangles and bracelets.
The total resale value of all the gold he brought into the UK was initially estimated at £100m. During his trial it emerged that Ali had benefited to the tune of £7m. Forensic accounting later raised that figure to £9m, HMRC said.
During the original investigation, it was discovered Ali had organised 120 scam trips between January 2007 and April 2008, importing huge quantities of gold into the UK without paying tax.
A courier would leave Britain in the afternoon, arriving in Dubai early the next morning. The courier would collect the gold before leaving Dubai the same evening and returning to Britain via Frankfurt, where they met Ali in an airside lounge.
They would then swap bags - so Ali would leave with the gold and the courier would leave with an ordinary bag of clothes.
The pair would then take separate flights back to the UK.
Further action to recover the proceeds of crime is being taken by selling properties and land worth nearly £2m owned by Ali in Birmingham and London.