Samir Baghdadi was handed a Confiscation Order following an investigation led by Durham Constabulary.
A drug gang leader has been ordered to pay £300,000 after he was jailed for converting a County Durham office block into a massive cannabis farm.
Samir Baghdadi was handed a Confiscation Order of £304,028 as part of a Proceeds of Crime hearing at Leeds Crown Court on Monday (December 19). The court heard that Baghdadi had benefited from his crimes after an investigation by Durham Constabulary found around 400 cannabis plants during a raid on Ridgemount House, in Peterlee town centre, in 2020.
The 55-year-old had converted two-storeys of the landmark building for use as a drug farm, complete with sleeping quarters, food supplies and cooking utensils on one floor and cannabis plants on another.
The building had been completely modified for the professional set-up and the electricity was so dangerous it had to be completely turned off.
Police acted following reports from the public of double mattresses being moved into the vacant building and swooped to find Baghdadi with seven other accomplices on the premises.
The drug farm set-up was examined by a police drugs expert who estimated that the plants had a current value of £5,000 with a potential earnings value of £147,000 to £252,000 if the farm was fully operational. The value of the equipment used was estimated at £59,000.
Baghdadi denied knowing of the men’s existence in the building but all eight were arrested at the scene and were charged with being concerned in the production of a Class B drug.
And despite claiming large sums of cash going into his account at that time were from legitimate sales of tyres, investigators put it to the court that it was a result of Baghdadi’s illegal activity.
Now Baghdadi will be made to pay back his ill-gotten drugs profits.
Baghdadi, of Hertfordshire, was found guilty following a trial and sentenced to seven years in prison.
Detective Sergeant Jenna Cook, of Durham Constabulary, said: “This is an excellent and just result regarding the outcome of the case for Baghdadi.
“Excellent work was carried out by a team of officers at Peterlee, who dedicated a lot of time into a long and complex case and the overall result could not have been achieved without good partnership working.
“Baghdadi was an individual who moved into our area to commit his crime. He claimed ignorance to the drugs found at his property but through investigation he was shown to be a skilled criminal operating at a high level along with others involved.
“Durham Constabulary do not tolerate criminals operating in our area and action will be taken against them.”
Detective Sergeant Thomas Maughan, of North East Regional Economic Crime Unit (NE RECU), added: “Baghdadi still proclaims his innocence, and even with the assistance of a forensic accountant has failed to show that a vast amount of cash being paid into his accounts was solely from his tyre business in Tottenham.
“The Proceeds of Crime Act has correctly allowed the court to assume a proportion of this cash was from his drug trafficking even though he was only caught at this one office block in Peterlee.
“At the time, he owned several other office blocks across the country, and it’s probable that at some stage these also had industrial-sized cannabis farms in them, or were bought for that purpose but never came into being due to his arrest by Durham Constabulary.”
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