Jail for drugs gang middleman: Illegal Chinese immigrant hid £210k of proceeds in hollowed-out books
A Chinese illegal immigrant who hid hundreds of thousands of pounds of drugs money in hollowed-out books has been jailed for the role he played in organised crime in Northern Ireland.
Wen Zyang, a 23-year-old restaurant worker who moved to Northern Ireland six years ago, admitted to three counts of transferring criminal property, concealing criminal property and possessing criminal property.
The "middle player" was handed a 21-month sentence – half of which will be spent in prison with the remaining half on licence upon his release – for his role in the criminality.
Belfast Crown Court heard the quantity of money in question amounted to over £210,000 – a majority of which was located in packages being sent from Northern Ireland to addresses in England.
Crown prosecutor Robin Steer said the charges against Zyang, of no fixed abode, were linked to "drug dealing within an organised crime group in Northern Ireland with connections to England."
The court heard that on December 10, 2012, police intercepted a package brought to a post office in north Belfast. The package contained around £60,000 in cash and was destined for an address in Birmingham. Zyang's fingerprints were subsequently discovered on the package.
Ten days later, a similar incident occurred at a post office in Dunmurry, where a parcel containing around £30,000 was intercepted by police. Zyang was connected to the parcel via fingerprint evidence.
A third package, again containing a large sum of money, was intercepted at a post office in Newtownabbey, on January 12, 2013.
Zyang was arrested and when his home was searched, hollowed-out books containing cash were seized.
Mr Steer said the money, which amounted to £210,027, was "linked to the drugs trade and is a product of that drugs trade".
A defence barrister said that due to Zyang's status as an illegal immigrant, he was vulnerable and was exploited by others.
The barrister said that while the money came from illegal sources, there was "nothing to suggest Zyang was involved in the supply of the drugs", adding Zyang received "low-level payments" for his role.
Judge Gordon Kerr QC said that while he accepted there was an "element of victimisation", Zyang committed serious offences.