Video: WEST NORFOLK: Family firm jailed for nearly 27 years in money laundering operation

PUBLISHED: 14:07 09 January 2009 | UPDATED: 08:50 02 June 2010

PHOUNG THI KIM NGUYEN, HOANG NOI DAO, and NGOC ANH DAO

PHOUNG THI KIM NGUYEN, HOANG NOI DAO, and NGOC ANH DAO

A FAMILY firm responsible for running Norfolk s biggest ever drugs and money laundering ring, making millions from their illegal trade, were last night jailed for a total of 27 years.

The Vietnamese gang - led by husband and wife Hoang Hoi Dao and Bich Ng

BICH NGA LE, JEAN YVES NICOLAS EPHIGENE, and LUAN VAN PHAN

A FAMILY firm responsible for running Norfolk's biggest ever drugs and money laundering ring, making millions from their illegal trade, were last night jailed for a total of 27 years.

The Vietnamese gang - led by husband and wife Hoang Hoi Dao and Bich Nga Le - ran three "highly professional" cannabis factories in the county and two in London. They are thought to have generated profits of up to £500,000 each year for about four years. Along the way they flooded the streets with at least 75 to 100 kilos of cannabis each year.

The operation finally came to an end when Norfolk police uncovered a factory in King's Lynn in July 2006 and launched an in-depth investigation which lifted the lid on the true extent of their crimes.

When they were arrested the six suspects were in the process of relocating to Lincolnshire. Hoi Dao claimed this was because his family craved "fresh air and country living" but in fact, Norwich Crown Court heard, the aim was to re-establish the network of cannabis factories away from the glare of the police investigation.

The gang operated behind a respectable facade of nail bars and takeaways, laundering the money through employees' accounts. They took out fraudulent mortgages far in excess of the amount their legitimate income would justify and purchased a number of houses.

Jailing them yesterday following one of the longest running criminal trials Norfolk has seen in recent years, Judge Philip Curl commended the police and Crown Prosecution Service.

He said: "Had it not been for the intervention of Norfolk police I have no doubt you would have carried on. This enterprise was highly profitable and the outlay was relatively minor."

Hoi Dao, 53, from Camberwell, London, was found guilty of conspiracy to produce drugs and mortgage fraud. Le, 42, of the same address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce drugs and money laundering.

Prosecutor John Farmer said the pair "appeared to be partners in every sense". He added: "When the factories were uncovered it set in motion the need to acquire new premises."

The couple had a criminal history dating back to 1983, including a string of international thefts and offences of dishonesty in locations ranging from Monaco and Switzerland to Hong Kong. Most of the proceeds of their crimes seemed to be invested in cars and property.

Their 25-year-old daughter Ngoc Anh Dao, from Edgware - whose barrister said was the "product of parents steeped in offending" - admitted money laundering and mortgage fraud.

Her Mauritian partner Jean Yves Nicolas Ephigene, 28, admitted conspiracy to produce cannabis, money laundering and mortgage fraud.

The court heard he had become embroiled in the crime after falling in love with Anh Dao. He had wanted to marry her but the Daos decided he would be more valuable to their fraudulent activities as a single man with no obvious connection to the family.

Luan Van Phan, 42, from Lime Tree Avenue, Wymondham, was found guilty of money laundering and fraud. Phuong Thi Kim Nguyen, 33, of The Laurels, West Lynn, admitting money laundering and mortgage fraud. The court heard that Nguyen's mother was a friend of the Daos and that is why the chose Norfolk as the epicentre of their business.

The first factory was found in Crossbank Road, King's Lynn, after members of the public raised suspicions. This led to the discovery of another factory in Wroxham Road, Norwich, and one in the city's St Martins Road. Two London operations were later discovered.

Initially low-paid "gardeners", who are thought to have been exploited after being trafficked into the country, were arrested. They have since been jailed for between two and a half and five years.

Acting Det Sgt Liz Fernandes said that historically the gardeners have been regarded as disposable by gang organisers as those responsible for setting up the factories evade prosecution.

However, police analysed hundreds of bank accounts and gathered 150,000 page of evidence as they sought to prevent the ringleaders disappearing into the night.

Mr Farmer described Hoi Dao and Le as being "at the top of the tree". In contrast the others played peripheral roles. Defence barrister Shufqat Khan said Nguyen "suspected cannabis production but had no direct knowledge of it".

Hoi Dao was jailed for a total of seven and a half years; Le for four years and eight months; Ephigene for four and a half years; Anh Dao for two years eight months; Phan for four and a half years and Nguyen for two and a half years.

So far about £500,000 in assets have been identified as belonging to the gang. The police and Crown Prosecution Service will seek to reclaim these at a future hearing.


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