Playboy gambler in pounds 168 million; High roller drove flash cars and was given pounds 1m credit at casinos.
HIGH roller Micky Singh loved to gamble.
Over a six-year period the charmer staked an estimated pounds 100 million on horses, football and roulette - including pounds 11 million in just one weekend.
Because of his reputation as a high-stakes player, the smoothtalking Midlander soon became the darling of casino bosses.
He had his own chair in one exclusive venue, enjoyed pounds 1 million rolling credit with another and received lavish gifts from the gambling firms - including an allexpenses trip to the European Cup Final.
But the playboy gambler with a superstar-lifestyle and a flat overlooking Lords Cricket Ground hid a dirty secret - he was using his betting know-howto help criminal gangs clean their ill gotten gains.
Undercover customs officers had been watching Micky, 39 and from Barnt Green, Worcestershire, as part of an investigation into a Midland money laundering racket.
Their four-year probe uncovered a lucrative scam that raked in millions of pounds through VAT fraud, money laundering and credit card cloning and also exposed an internet bank registered in the Caribbean being used to channel criminal monies around the world.
Eight people have been jailed for a total of 34 years for their parts in the scam.
Customs officers believe the principal players profited by a staggering pounds 168 million and have now launched efforts to strip them of their ill-gotten assets.
They are still poring over paperwork to see how much Micky earned through the crime.
HM Revenue and Customs' senior investigating officer Andy Baker, who led the complex investigation, said: "That is where they will feel the pain.
"They used the money to fund extravagant and luxurious lifestyles including properties, performance cars and designer jewellery.
"Getting the convictions was the hard part. But we have now been able to open it up to investigate their criminal lifestyle and take away the proceeds they earned through crime."
As part of the financial investigation more than pounds 13 million of assets have already been restrained, including properties in the UK and abroad, luxury cars including Bentleys, Mercedes and a Lamborghini and flash jewellery.
Jatinder Singh Batth, Micky Singh's real name, had been in Customs' sights for a number of years. When investigators got wind in 2005 that he was involved with his relative Harvinder Singh Batth in a money laundering racket, they began a secret surveillance operation.
They had their first breakthrough when police seized aHarrods bag stuffed with pounds 155,000 after observing Micky meeting Batth, from Little Aston, and Sukhjinder Shergill in a London street.
As officers probed deeper they discovered Batth and Shergill, both aged 33, and another man called Jasbinder Singh Bedesha were key players in a complicated VAT fraud that was raking in millions.
Known as missing trader or carousel fraud, the racket sees high value computer components imported in to the country and moved between firms.
Rogue bosses then claim back the VAT from the taxman on the items which had never been paid in the first place.
In just a one-month snapshot in 2005, the scam raked in pounds 1.8million.
Huge sums of money were being sent through the internet bank in the Caribbean to a company in Dubai, named Anisha Brokers after Bedesha's daughter.
Armed with an easy way to move money around the world, the plotters also offered out their services to launder cash from organised crime gangs.
Micky and two other Sutton Coldfield men, Suckjit Singh Birring and Jatinder Singh Salh, would stake the dirty criminal money on a series of low-risk bets at casinos and bookmakers, their winnings effectively 'cleaning' the money because they had a legitimate source for it if anyone questioned where it had come from.
Over 10 months Salh, 35, gambled almost pounds 1.7 million while 36 year-old Birring, staked over pounds 420,000.
Micky also gambled huge sums, although he was forced to leave the country for a short while after receiving death threats.
The apparently legitimate cash was then sent via the bank to Dubai, where it would instantly disappear around the globe.
Customs officers believe some of the dirty cash was coming from drugs gangs north of the border.
It is known links exist between drugs gangs in the West Midlands and Scotland, particularly Aberdeen, and in one seizure officers found pounds 200,000 including Scottish bank notes. The cash was so heavily contaminated with heroin and cannabis it had to be destroyed.
Investigators slowly amassed the damning evidence needed to bring down the gang as members were filmed meeting in places like Gatwick, Selfridges and the Marriott hotel.
It took one officer a solid month to view all of the surveillance footage and the wealth of paperwork they gathered filled a storage room from floor to ceiling.
When officers finally launched a series of raids in October 2005, they recovered tens of thousands of pounds, including huge sums hidden in safety deposit boxes in Birmingham.
Officers who searched a VW Golf parked near to Shergill's Walsall home discovered pounds 70,000 worth of Cartier watches, pounds 8,000 cash and sheets of counterfeit stamps. They also found skimming machines and dozens of cloned credit cards.
"Shergill went from being a nobody in this investigation to a principal player who acted as a banker for the organisation by administering the cash deposit scheme," added Mr Baker.
"In a very short time he was driving a Bentley and going to casinos to hang out and drink champagne."
Bedesha, 47, who had based himself in Dubai to help move the cash, was arrested when he arrived back in the countrywhile Mickywas tracked down to his London flat he shared with his girlfriend.
Micky was the last to be sentenced for his part in the racket, and was jailed earlier this month.
Mr Baker added: "Micky was an educated, charming guy and had a lot about him. To see his face when he was convicted and see him go down was worth it.
"To get all eight convicted was a tremendous achievement and highlighted the exceptional work by my team."
He added: "The amount of money they were taking was hugely significant to the public finances, it was taxpayers' money being taken and used by playboys living an exceptional lifestyle.
"Taking the proceeds of crime from them is where it is going to hurt them.
But that is the most important thing, it's about returning the money to the public purse."
Gang sent to prison
THE gang's principal players Harvinder Singh Batth, of Little Aston, Jasbinder Singh Bedesha, ofDubai, andSukhjinder Singh Shergill, of Walsall, were each convicted of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to launder money last June.
Batth was jailed for a total of nine years and Bedesha and Shergill received seven and a half-years.
Suckjit Singh Birring and Jatinder Singh Salh, both of Sutton Coldfield, were each convicted of conspiracy to launder money for their part as gamblers and couriers.
Birring got two-and-ahalf years in jail, Salh three-and-a-half years.
Couriers Zulfiqar Ali, 55, of Harborne, and Harbinder Singh Sandhu, 33, of Swadlincote, Derbyshire were convicted of money laundering offences and were sentenced last month.
Ali got 15 months in jail, Sandhu 12 months.
Jatinder 'Micky Singh' Batth was jailed earlier this month for 18 months for money-laundering offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
He was acquitted of the more serious charge of conspiracy to cheat.
THE GANG: from left, Harvinder Singh Batth, Sukhjinder Singh Shergill, Jatinder Singh Salh and Sukjit Singh Birring. Below, some of the gang's stash recovered.; GAMBLER: Jatinder Singh Batth, aka Micky Singh
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|Publication:||Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)|
|Date:||Mar 29, 2009|
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