Smuggler’s drug money paid for house in Brierfield

Burnley Crown Court.
Burnley Crown Court.

A convicted heroin smuggler has been found guilty of laundering drug money by buying a house in Brierfield from a fellow criminal.

Nevzat Kocabey (50), of Lemon Grove, Liverpool, was found guilty of two counts of transferring criminal property after a four-day trial at Burnley Crown Court.

The result comes at the end of a three-year investigation – codenamed Operation Hera II – by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (TITAN) and follows the conviction of 51-year-old Mohammed Khatana, of Hawks House Gardens, Brierfield, who pleaded guilty to 15 counts of fraud.

Nerzat Kocabey met Khatana in jail and, nine months after being released, arranged to buy The Hawks, Hawkwood Gardens. He was in jail for being a trusted courier in a £225,000 smuggling operation.

Turkish-born Kocabey had the services of an interpreter in court and denied money laundering.

Mr Nicholas Courtney (prosecuting) said neither Kocabey nor his family wanted to live in East Lancashire, and the purpose of the investment, which he hoped would increase in value, was to conceal the proceeds of crime.

Letters and phone calls to a solicitor’s office confirmed Kocabey wanted to buy The Hawks, but a mortgage was in his son’s name. Mr Courtney said putting it in his son’s name was to conceal the deal.

Kocabey provided £16,500 as a deposit, £7,500 of which was in cash, with the balance as a banker’s draft.

The certificate of title for the house named Kocabey’s son as the owner, and the solicitor wrote to Kocabey saying he was concerned about money laundering as the payment was in cash. Kocabey said he had borrowed the cash from his father-in-law.

Det. Chief Insp. Paula Parker, head of the North West Regional Asset Recovery Team, said: “I hope this sends a strong message out to criminals who, like Kocabey, think they can make a living through crime and then seek to hide their assets, that they will be targeted and put before the courts.

“Today’s conviction brings a conclusion to a long and complex investigation. It is wrong that criminals should profit from their offending or live a lifestyle that is funded by crime.

“We will do everything we can to investigate people who we believe have obtained their money illegally, and then work with the courts to bring them to justice and take their wealth off them.”