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British solar panel fraud gang jailed for 30 years over $22 million scam

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British solar panel fraud gang

Six members of a UK fraud gang have been jailed for a total of 30 years for their parts in a scam that resulted in hundreds of vulnerable victims being conned out of £17 million ($22.1 million).

The men were brought before Liverpool Crown Court following a four-year probe by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) into the activities of Solar Energy Savings Ltd, which was behind a scam that involved victims being manipulated into buying solar panels on the false premise that their installation costs would be invested and they would get their money back within five years.

Instead, members of the gang spent the money on high-end cars and luxury holidays, leaving their victims, many of whom were elderly, with losses of up £20,000 each.

They are said to have paid themselves nearly £2 million from the proceeds of their scam, and used their ill-gotten gains to buy sports vehicles, cosmetic surgery and private flights to locations including Switzerland and Italy.

The ringleaders of the gang, brothers David Diaz and Ludovic Black, were apprehended by police during a routine traffic stop after they had been on the run from law enforcement authorities for seven months.

Black and Diaz were handed sentences of seven-and-a-half years and six-and-a-half years respectively, while their four accomplices were jailed for between three-and-a-half years and four-and-a-half years.

Salespeople who worked for the gang’s firm reportedly used dishonest tactics such as describing the offer as a limited promotion, using bogus firms they had created to appear reputable, and indicating that the customer was in an “optimum” position, regardless of what the reality might be.

Many of the gang’s victims, who were typically elderly and on fixed incomes, faced severe emotional and financial hardship a result of losing their money.

Scott Crighton, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, said: “The tactics used by these scam artists were particularly malicious and they shamefully targeted thousands of vulnerable people to secure a vast sum of money to fund their extravagant lifestyles.

“Thanks to the joint work between the Insolvency Service, SFO and several other organisations we have been able to secure substantial sentences for these fraudsters, putting an end to their deceitful activities and protecting many more people from being conned.”

Lisa Osofsky, SFO Director, said: “These men built predatory schemes to steal thousands from the hard-earned savings of vulnerable people while pretending to offer them a chance to improve their own financial security.”

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Drugs gangs recruiting pensioners to act as mules on cruise ships travelling between South America and Europe

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pensioners to act as mules on cruise ships

Police in Portugal have warned that drugs gangs are recruiting aging cruise line passengers to act as mules on ships travelling from South America and the Caribbean to Europe.

Speaking with Portuguese daily Correio da Manha after police arrested a British septuagenarian couple on suspicion of attempting to smuggle cocaine worth an estimated $2.5 million into Europe after returning from the Caribbean on a cruise liner, an official source said trafficking gangs are using elderly people as mules due to the fact they arouse less suspicion than younger passengers.

The source spoke out after it was revealed that married couple Roger and Susan Clarke, aged 72 and 70 respectively, were arrested by detectives in Lisbon after police there were tipped off by the UK’s National Crime Agency.

Portuguese investigators said they discovered a large quantity of cocaine “ingeniously” concealed in four suitcases in the pensioners’ cabin.

Police said the drugs were hidden in false bottoms that had been created inside the bags, and that the cocaine was evenly distributed between the four pieces of luggage.

It is believed the couple were handed the drugs while they were holidaying on a Caribbean island.

In comments given to Correio da Manha, Vitor Ananais, who led the investigation that led to the arrest of the pensioners, noted that the pair would have blended in well on the cruise liner, on which the majority of passengers were of a similar age.

He told the paper that the couple, who are reported to have gone on as many six cruises every year, did not protest their innocence after they were detained, and that they had said nothing about how the drugs came to be concealed in suitcases that were found in their cabin.

The couple were arrested at the boat’s penultimate stop before it reached its final docking point of Essex in the UK.

Ananais said: “We acted when we did rather than wait for a possible handover because we wanted to protect the investigation and ensure we seized the drugs.

“We do not know for sure at the moment where the cocaine was going to be brought ashore,” he added.

“We believe the couple were given the drugs in a Caribbean island but are still looking into which island at this stage.”

It was reported yesterday that both of the Clarkes have criminal records in the UK, and that they now live in Spain.

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Shoppers in Ireland warned to be on lookout for counterfeit cosmetics prior to Christmas

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counterfeit cosmetics

Irish consumers have been warned to exercise caution when purchasing “high-end” beauty products in the lead-up to Christmas.

Health regulators in the republic this morning cautioned that counterfeit beauty products sold through certain online and physical markets over the festive season could pose a potential serious threat to consumers’ health and safety.

Ireland’s Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the Health Service Executive (HSE) said the availability of fake beauty products tends to peak in the country prior to Christmas, noting how a significant quantity of such items were seized by Irish customs officers last year.

The fake items, some of which purported to be from popular brands such as Urban Decay and Kylie Cosmetics by Kylie Jenner, were often purchased from websites based outside of the European Union or from sellers on social media.

Tests carried out on these products, many of which were eye shadow and lip colourants, revealed that some contained harmful substances such as lead and arsenic.

In addition to lead and arsenic, which is widely referred to the “king of poisons”, counterfeit cosmetic products have also been known to contain a number of other unpleasant substances including mercury, cyanide, paint-stripper and even faeces.

The consequences of using counterfeit cosmetics that contain some of these substances can include mild skin irritation, chemical burns and even long-term damage to the central nervous system and the brain, the latter of which may be permanent.

In a statement on the regulator’s website, Emer O’Neill, Cosmetics Product Manager at the HPRA, said: “We can’t emphasise enough the need for consumers to exercise caution and to be vigilant when purchasing cosmetics this Christmas.

“While it may be tempting to avail of cheaper prices, counterfeit products could cost you your health. Unfortunately, the Christmas season is generally the peak time of year for rogue sellers of counterfeit products, which are often found when purchasing products online or from temporary stalls or outlets.

“Shoppers are strongly urged to apply common sense and to ask themselves; if a product seems very cheap, is it really likely to be the genuine article? The danger of counterfeit products is that their quality and safety is not known.”

In advice on how to avoid purchasing counterfeit beauty products, the HPRA cautions consumers to steer clear of items on offer for considerably less money than they would typically cost if bought through a major retailer.

It also tells shoppers to physically examine potential counterfeit cosmetics where possible, looking out for anomalies such as uneven fill levels, faded packaging and misspellings on packaging or in information leaflets.

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Iran threatens to flood Europe with drugs and migrants following US sanctions

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Iran threatens to flood Europe with drugs

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has threatened to flood Europe with heroin, migrants and terrorists in revenge for sanctions imposed on the country by the US over Tehran’s nuclear weapons programme.

Addressing a six-nation counter-terrorism conference in Tehran attended by lawmakers from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, China and Russia over the weekend, Rouhani told delegates that crippling US sanctions would prevent Iran’s security services from stopping drug traffickers and people smugglers targeting western countries, noting how the criminal groups behind such trades are often linked to terrorist groups.

In a speech that was carried by state TV, Rouhani said: “Weakening Iran by sanctions, many will not be safe. Those who do not believe us, it is good to look at the map.”

He added: “Imagine what a disaster there would be if there is a breach in the dam.

“I warn those who impose sanctions that if Iran’s ability to fight drugs and terrorism are affected…, you will not be safe from a deluge of drugs, asylum seekers, bombs and terrorism.”

While Iran is by no means a major drug-producing nation, large quantities of opium pass through the country on major smuggling routes that link Afghanistan and Pakistan with Europe.

Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, the primary ingredient of heroin, with Helmand Province, which is close to the border with Iran, being the country’s largest opium-producing region.

Iran claims to incinerate around 100 tonnes of seized drugs every year as a symbol of its determination to halt the flow of narcotics through trafficking routes that cross its borders.

In June 2017, Iranian media reported that drug addiction across the country had more than doubled over the previous six years, with research showing that approximately 2.8 million Iranians were regularly consuming drugs.

Iran also serves as a major hub on a number of people smuggling routes used by migrants looking to make their way to Turkey.

Many of these asylum seekers pay large sums of money to people smuggling gangs, some of which are thought to be closely linked to terrorist organisations.

Over recent weeks, scores of mostly Iranian migrants have been picked in flimsy boats while attempting to cross the English Channel from the French border town of Calais.

Rouhani said worsening economic conditions in Iran brought about by the sanctions had led to an increase in the number of migrants illegally crossing the border from Iran into Turkey since the summer.

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