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Northern Ireland restaurant linked to £180m heroin empire

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Birmingham based drug dealer and money launderer Alam Zeb Khan.

Birmingham based drug dealer and money launderer Alam Zeb Khan.

Taj Tandoori, Bangor

Taj Tandoori, Bangor

Birmingham based drug dealer and money launderer Alam Zeb Khan.

A restaurant in Co Down was used to launder cash for one of the largest criminal enterprises in the UK.

The Taj Tandoori, in Bangor, had deposits in its accounts that came from Alam Zeb Khan's £180million heroin empire.

Last week the National Crime Agency (NCA), which was part of the taskforce that busted the drugs gangs in 2014, announced it had recovered £17million from the cartel's property portfolio.

That included three properties in Bangor and 56 private residences rented out in Birmingham, where the gang was based.

The network was controlled by Alam Zeb Khan, who is serving jail time for importing heroin and money laundering.

His brother Ameran Khan was among eight men imprisoned for a total of 139 years for their role in the ring following a hearing at Birmingham Crown Court.

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Taj Tandoori, Bangor

Taj Tandoori, Bangor

Taj Tandoori, Bangor

A third brother, heroin addict Aurang Khan, ran Bangor's Taj Tandoori (inset), which ceased trading in 2010.

A 2017 ruling that granted the NCA control of the properties revealed that between September 2002 and August 2010, £457,901 had been deposited in the restaurant's business account in Aurang Khan's name.

He and his wife also paid more than £700,000 into various personal accounts over a 13-year period, the source of which they could not explain. Aurang Khan came to Northern Ireland in 1989 and worked as a chef before setting up the restaurant in 1995.

The lease of the Taj Tandoori was sold in 2010 and the funds transferred to Alam Khan, who used the money to buy properties in Birmingham.

During a contested hearing Aurang Khan admitted he had been a heroin user until 2010 and said the years of drug abuse had affected his memory.

It was also revealed that hundreds of thousands of pounds had been deposited from various sources into bank accounts in the name of Aurang Khan and his wife Shakar Begum.

The monies were used to buy properties in Bangor and Birmingham, with £153,942 having been lodged in one account between November 2000 and September 2012.

Among these properties were houses on Marlo Heights and Albert Street in Bangor.

Alam Khan lodged £12,000 worth of cheques in another account.

Between 1998 and 2011 Aurang Khan and his wife's joint declared income was £80,572, but a total of £371,212 was paid into various accounts in his name. Accounts held in his wife's name had £340,047 paid into them during the same period.

A court ruling said neither party had challenged the accuracy of the NCA's evidence.

Similarly, Aurang Khan could not give an explanation for the deposited cash.

He did, however, admit putting some money into his wife's accounts so he could not use it to fund his heroin habit.

A defence barrister claimed the Zeb Khan network did not exist and said there was no evidence linking the defendants to such criminal activities.

But a judge said that given the lack of a credible explanation, Aurang Khan's drug addiction and his links to Alam Khan, the only conclusion was that cash deposited in the accounts came from drug dealing, money laundering and tax evasion.

Sunday Life