The Afghan links to a very British organised crime group…………

(from the top) Nasr, Dawes, and Jamil Karzai

The Afghan links to a very British organised crime group…………

FAMILY of the Afghan president Hamid Karzai have formed connections with a British gangster who is wanted for major drug trafficking and murder and has been conducting a money-laundering operation from Dubai.

A four month investigation by journalists has uncovered evidence that three nephews of the Afghan president – one of whom is a former Afghan MP and another is a government intelligence chief – are linked to Robert Dawes, a 39-year-old drugs kingpin who has figured in eight separate national UK crime investigations but has evaded capture.
Dawes, named by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) in recent court documents as a “highly significant international criminal” is currently in prison in Dubai fighting extradition to Spain where the authorities want him to face trial over a 200-kilo haul of  82 per cent purity cocaine discovered outside Madrid in September 2007.
He is also wanted in Holland where he was named in court as the man who ordered the murder of an innocent school teacher, Gerard Meesters, in Groningen in November 2002. Meesters was targeted simply for being a relative of someone who had crossed Dawes.
Detectives in Britain are understood to want to interview Dawes about major drug trafficking in heroin and cocaine, money laundering and the unsolved murder in October 2002 of David Draycott from Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, who like Meesters was assassinated at his home.
Dawes fled the UK for Spain nearly ten years ago and has spent much of his time shuttling between the Mijas Costa and Dubai. In the intervening period police swooped on members of his cartel, including his brother John and father, Arthur. Both were jailed in 2005 for drugs offences and money laundering.
Since 2007 Dawes has stayed in Dubai running a money-laundering operation. Dubai has long been considered a magnet for money-laundering, particularly in relation to Afghanistan, where much of the political elite has second homes.
It was at the centre of last year’s scandal over the misuse of Kabul Bank by its shareholders, who had been loaning to themselves in order to buy property there. The US embassy in Afghanistan estimates $10m a day leaves the country for Dubai, much of it the proceeds of illegal activity from the country’s heroin trade, the leading export of the country.
Reporters began investigating Dawes’ connections with the Karzai family in November last year after receiving information that Jamil Karzai, a nephew of the Afghan president, had been seen at Dawes offices meeting the Briton’s right-hand man, Raphael Nasr.
An undercover reporter approached Manchester-born Nasr, who is also on the radar of the SOCA and the Guardia Civil, posing as a broker representing a client looking for business partners in Afghanistan.
Dawes and Nasr jointly run Argosta Emirates General Trading, a Dubai-based company, and Nasr also controls Syncon, a construction company registered to operate in Afghanistan.
In telephone conversations Nasr boasted of strong links not only to Jamil Karzai, but also his brothers, Yama and Ajmal. Yama Karzai now occupies a position within the Afghan intelligence services. Nasr also stated that Yama’s brother Ajmal Karzai is now the president of Syncon.
Although he was initially wary (“I’m not talking to a reporter or something? It’s just that I’m going to be introducing you to some people and they can help in there”) Nasr said his connections could easily facilitate work for the reporter’s client.
He said: “Yama is like my brother. I am in Kabul often and stay with his family. He has just been made head of four departments and is a general. I could ask as in favours from him.
“Obviously of course we have ways of getting in, we have ins, there are people who are favoured there, do you understand?
“The president now [of Syncon] is Ajmal Karzai. He was working with the US government on special operations and then left the government because the job they gave him was to do with drug enforcement which he didn’t [want], which was a high risk kind of job.
“So you know again, you’ve got a gentleman there who knows, who took me to three ministers just via a mobile telephone call.
“Of course we are going to give you favouritism, of course there is, it’s all over the world.”
Nasr said that contruction contracts in Afghanistan given to “triple A companies” could be sub-contracted out to the reporter’s client for an “administration fee”, but only with the use of his connections to open doors.
He said: “We can go sit with them and they say give us a five percent, three per cent administration fee and that’s your contract. Whereas they wouldn’t do that with other people.”
Nasr put the reporter in telephone contact with Jamil Karzai, who was in Dubai. The Afghan, who heads the Youth Solidarity Party, was an MP in Kabul until losing his seat in 2010.
Jamil Karzai, who was a regular visitor to the Argosta offices, told the undercover reporter: “I know him [Raphael Nasr] from Dubai, so he has been to Afghanistan, there are a lot of things we can do in Afghanistan it’s a matter of being here and witnessing for yourself what I can do or what we can do.
“Raphael is our best friend and is now kind of family now….we can do good business there if we all get together we can have something really good.”
He confirmed that his brother Ajaml was the president of Syncon, adding: “He [Nasr} is our friend, so [of] our friendship there is no doubt, but still you know me or my younger brother Yama, we are not in a business deal with him yet, but our elder brother, he is or he is going to to be the president of his company in Afghanistan.”
Asked about Dawes, Karzai said: “I’ve spoken with him, yeah, I’ve spoken with him I think a couple of times, through Raph by telephone.”
Both Karzai and Nasr were keen to effect a meeting with the reporter in Dubai or Afghanistan to discuss projects further.
Journalists have also obtained a document from Dawes’ associates which show a complex money laundering plan for Dawes’ cash rich drugs business. Plans drawn up for Dawes, who also has a company called the English Laundry in Dubai, recommended using Malta and British Virgin Island based-companies in order to avoid detection.
Court papers relating to the conviction of Dawes’ brother, John, who was jailed for 24 years in 2005 for drug trafficking offences, conservatively estimate that more than £1 million per month was being laundered by the cartel.
Dawes was arrested in Dubai in 2008, apparently relating to a warrant emanating from Spain. Two weeks ago at a Madrid court three Britons and a Columbian, were jailed for between eight and seven half years. Dawes identified by SOCA and the Guardia Civil as the man behind the haul.
However, Spanish police have since been told by Dubai officials that Dawes will not be considered for extradition until his sentence for money laundering offences is completed. They have refused to tell the Spanish authorities how long that will be and Dawes has boasted to associates that he will be free shortly after bribing Dubai officials and paying out £1 million for bail. Dawes is known to have at least four false passports and law enforcement agencies fear he could flee Dubai before facing extradition.
When confronted Nasr admitted he was friends with members of the Karzai family and Robert Dawes but denied he was involved in any criminality.
He said: “I have not done anything criminal. How can I have done anything wrong as I have not been arrested.
“Is it a crime to be friends with certain people. This is a crazy situation. Listen, be very, very careful what you print,” he said.
Jamil Karzai denied when confronted that he knew anyone called Raphael Nasr or Robert Dawes.
He said: “Are you trying to blackmail me? I speak with lots of people lots of the time. I am a political figure so people want to speak with me. I have been to Dubai several times and maybe I get to meet with ex-pats there in restaurants from time to time. I do not know this man. I totally deny knowing these people [Nasr and Dawes],” he said.
Robert Dawes was named in Dutch court papers as the man responsible for ordering the murder of innocent schoolteacher Gerard Meesters, shot eight times on his doorstep in Groningen, Holland in November 2002. The shooting was believed to have been carried out in revenge for Meesters’ sister Janette stealing a tonne of cannabis resin from Dawes’ organisation. Daniel Sowerby was jailed for life in 2007 for the shooting and his accomplice Steven Barnes received an eight year sentence. Both refused to testify against Dawes for fear of reprisals against their relatives. Dawes, from Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, has been targeted across Europe by crime fighting agencies and has figured in eight separate national investigations in the UK since 2001 including the most recent Operation Halbert led by SOCA. So far he has evaded capture for the crimes he is wanted for.

A law enforcement source in the UK  who has investigated Dawes said: “He is a highly dangerous man who has global connections, uses complex codes in order to communicate with associates and has the ability to corrupt law enforcement officials through access to vast amounts of money made through large scale drug smuggling.It seems more than good fortune that 10 years after he first appeared on the radar in the UK he has yet to face a British court. “

The devil’s advocate may finally face justice

Giovanni Di Stefano will be needing a competent lawyer to avoid extradition

Almost four years ago I wrote about the criminal’s favourite lawyer, Giovanni Di Stefano ,being investigated over allegations that he stripped clients of more than £3 million.

Now it appears the law has finally caught up with him, although it remains to still be seen whether he can wriggle his way out of this one

He is a curious character to say the least. On the one hand he claimed to be a lawyer to some of the most despicable and violent criminals of our time and on the other he appeared to spend most of his time ringing up lazy journalists who preferred to believe his ridiculous claims for a page lead about a celebrity criminal rather than delve beneath the surface of the man dubbed the “devil’s advocate”.

Di Stefano is a serial fraudster and conman who has no legal qualifications to be in a position to defend some of the people he claims to. I have no sympathies for some of the criminals he has duped out of money but there are some cases of genuine people who have suffered financial destruction and miscarriages of justice as a result of being represented by him.

One case in point is Kevin Musgrove who lost £40,000 to Di Stefano after being told the Italian was the best man to get him free. Di Stefano did nothing but seal Kevin’s fate in the Court of Appeal and left him serving an eight and half year sentence for a crime I hope to show he did not commit back in 2000. That wrong will be righted one day and the Criminal Cases Review Commission will shortly be receiving the new evidence which I hope will overturn his case as well as highlighting the corruption involved.

In the meantime I look forward to Di Stefano occupying plenty more column inches as he rails at the “injustice” of his very justified arrest. And to those journalists who courted this obsequious man for the sake of a few red top stories…shame on you.

Just call me Mister Gunn……….

“Mister” Colin Gunn, who demands respect when spoken to


In yet another depressing sign of the times Colin Gunn, a self-styled gangster who epitomises the worst of the UK’s chav generation has won an important victory for prisoners seeking respect from within the walls of the prison establishment.

As the Sunday Times reported at the weekend, Gunn has now won the right to be called by the title he wishes after a battle with the prison authorities at Whitemoor HMP. Gunn revealed his victory in a letter published in this month’s issue of the prison inmates newspaper Inside Times.
I raise this issue because I have written at length about the misery that Gunn and his cohorts brought to the people of Nottingham and beyond. There is nothing wrong with the idea that prisoners should be addressed in a formal manner; a civilised society should not seek to treat inmates as animals if there is any hope of rehabilitating them from the wrong road they have taken. What is wrong here is that Gunn has been afforded some kind of respectful status in the face of some truly brutal crimes for which he is rightly facing a 35-year tariff. I make no mention of other crimes he hasn’t been convicted of which currently lie in the dusty shelves of detectives trays marked “case unsolved”.
Surely until we start treating the victims of crime with the respect that they deserve, the human rights concerns of the likes of Colin Gunn should be pushed to the back of the queue. Colin Gunn is clearly revelling in this latest burst of publicity because he thinks he has got one over on the system that he is constantly seeking to pervert. His idea of a just world is one where might is right and the mob rules and where he is considered as a role model for others…that seems to me a recipe for the end of civilised society.

The story that Rupert hopes will go away……

THIS week’s Channel 4 Dispatches took the story of phone hacking in Fleet Street further and ratcheted up the pressure on David Cameron’s spin doctor Andy Coulson another small notch. The eloquent and incisive presentation by political columnist Peter Oborne showed just why people should be so concerned about the methods employed by some hacks to bring in the catches from their fishing expeditions.
The documentary succinctly explored the pursuit of celebrities, politicians, police officers and ordinary members of the public among the 5,000 plus victims of the phone hacking affair. It rightly questioned the relationship between some newspapers and Metropolitan Police, though perhaps ventured too far in claiming there was a conspiracy between Rupert Murdoch and the previous Government.
The story of “Sam”, the victim of a horrific sex attack, who has only just discovered that her phone was hacked, is one of the strongest arguments why this case must be properly re-investigated, because I have no doubt that when this story unravels further we will be shocked at just how widespread the illegal accessing of personal information and unjustified snooping has become.
Let’s not forget out of more than 5,000 victims the Metropolitan Police chose to concentrate on just two victims and only the Royal stories being pumped out by former News of the World hack Clive Goodman. The fact that he and private eye Glen Mulcaire were paid off with substantial amounts of money by News International to stay quiet about the frequency of the snooping and who at News International knew about it, should not prevent them from telling the full truth about what was going on inside Wapping. Indeed since they have already been prosecuted and convicted they offer the best hope of getting to the bottom of this story by being interviewed a second time by detectives, this time as witnesses and not under caution. I will also be intrigued to see whether the planned BBC Panorama programme on the phone hacking affair makes it onto the screen next week. As I have written previously, this story is only just beginning to unravel…it is certainly not going to go away

The story that won’t go away…………………..

David Cameron must decide if Andy Coulson (right) is really the right man to be communicating his ideas

THE allegations due to be printed in this Sunday’s New York Times magazine  go the furthest so far in the tawdry tale of phone hacking at the News of the World. Testimonies from former executives and journalists who have worked at the newspaper confirm what every reporter who ever worked for a national tabloid newspaper from the late 1990s onwards has known. It is, I am afraid to say, just the tip of the iceberg.

To quote Sir Francis Bacon, knowledge is power. In the 21st Century that is truer than at any other time in the history of information-gathering because of the wealth of  private electronic data that is now accumulated on every individual through a variety of mediums from mobile phones and email to bank and medical records. I will make no apology here for the wish of every journalist to accumulate “golden nuggets” and “smoking gun”  information in a legal manner. It is the raison d’etre of every journalist to accumulate information, disseminate it and educate the public with knowledge while in the pursuit of worthy stories. What is wrong, and open to criminal allegations, is that the pursuit of that information was blinkered by the desire to provide the public with salacious bits of tittle tattle using illegal means without any recourse to the benchmark question; is it in the public interest? There are plenty of occasions where the “dark arts” have been used to to unearth genuine exclusives which have been in the public interest, but even then, and only then after the necessary checks and benchmarks have been applied. And so we come to Andy Coulson, David Cameron’s personal spin doctor and former News of the World editor. Honestly speaking, I do not have any personal knowledge that Andy Coulson knew what was going on or that he was the only executive directing these activities but I know and have worked with many former News of the World journalists whose words I trust. They say Coulson did know and that he has misled the parliamentary committee about his knowledge. I know from personal experience that phone hacking and “blagging” went on wholesale during his tenure, as one reporter put it “even the office cat knew it was going on”. And blagging information is something that still goes on to this day. These kinds of dark practices also went on every working day at a number of other newspapers including the Mail on Sunday, the Sunday Mirror. I recall being told about one Sunday newspaper attempts back in 2002 to access the medical records of a high profile celebrity, who had already been at the centre of  a cocaine and call girls scandal. On that occasion the Met Police also investigated and indeed there was evidence of collusion between newspaper executives and a rogue BT telephone engineer. The enquiry petered out into nothing, no newspaper executives were either arrested or charged, but the story had a ring of truth about it even then. In all but a minority of cases there was no public interest justification for the use of such practices, the journalists involved were merely embroiling themselves in “fishing expeditions” at the behest of their scoop hungry editors and woe betide you if you didn’t come up with that exclusive. But there can be no excuses. This type of activity, if unchecked, undermines the bedrock upon which journalistic ethics stands and it is a  story that is not going to go away. Be braced because there will almost certainly be more to come on this story.

A wake up call for witness protection……

Today’s news that Coroner and QC Karon Monaghan  has called for a review of the the UK’s witness protection services has been a long time coming and is long overdue. If nothing else, Hoods , illustrated just what happens when there is no continuity or depth in the witness protection framework to deal with the real threats that organised crime poses to those ordinary people who speak out against its pernicious reach. It is a tragedy of appalling proportions that it has taken the brutal deaths of two pensioners to reach this stage but as is so often the case, it takes something of that nature to shake us out of the complacency that had been allowed to build up over this area of policing. Joan and John Stirland really did deserve better treatment and there will be individuals and corporate entitities who will never be able to wash the blood from their hands over the Stirlands deaths. There is no doubt in my mind that consideration must be given to a national body set up to deal with witness protection which is independent of local police forces and this should be a fully funded body which can deal with the huge expense and strain on resources which witness protection inevitably creates. As matters currently stand there are people who would be willing to turn their lives upside down and give evidence against major criminals if they had faith in the system. There is very little faith in the current system and the deaths of the Stirlands has magnified that lack of faith. Nobody wants to see the spectre of criminal trials collapsing against the some of the most dangerous villains simply because witnesses do not feel safe but that has become an increasingly common situation in the UK. It will be interesting to see the responses of ACPO and local police forces to this issue, but the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution also need to have an input into this debate. We saw on the streets of Nottingham how urban terrorism, threats and fear have taken their toll on some of the city’s population and unless we have the systems in place to reassure those who need our protection, it will be a story coming to a city near you soon.

Depressing news from Spain…….

Trevor Wade in happier times

For the past year I have been actively supporting the plight of  a Lincolnshire pensioner who was arrested in Spain after being duped into driving a car which contained £22 million worth of cocaine. Most criminals will tell you they are innocent or have been stitched up and for that reason alone I don’t tend to get involved in miscarriage of justice cases unless there is clear evidence that the person involved is innocent. But I have absolutely no doubt that the case of  Trevor Wade passes that test. Trevor’s plight is detailed in the revised edition of Hoods, so I won’t duplicate those details here but in short, the biggest problem is that Trevor has been held in prison now, without trial, since September 2007. Today I feel an overwhelming sense of anger and sadness after I learned that his lawyer believes a trial may not take place until April 2011. It is frankly shocking that a 66-year-old man in poor health, against whom there is no evidence other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, can be left to rot in a foreign prison without trial for almost three years. I do not blame the Spanish for Trevor’s plight, they were only following the trail given to them by British investigators at the Serious Organised Crime Agency. SOCA has admitted it has no evidence on Trevor Wade but says it cannot interfere in the judicial process of a foreign power. Ditto the Foreign Office. But the fact is they don’t appear to be doing anything else to resolve the matter either, almost as if to say they would rather it was swept under the carpet than admit when a costly mistake has been made. If this had been a case of a foreign national in the UK then Trevor would undoubtedly be home with his family by now, either because there was no case to answer or through abuse of process rules. Even in the unlikely event he had gone to trial in the UK he would certainly have been given bail until the date of the hearing. At present, he is struggling to survive the regime in Leon Prison where the odd piece of Spanish Tortilla is often the only food he looks forward to eating. If there is anybody out there, either in SOCA or the Foreign Office, who has a conscience I would suggest that now is the time to make yourself known because all the apologies and platitudes in the world are going to mean nothing to Trevor’s family if he ends up living out his last days in that Spanish cell.

Why can’t we have a sensible debate about legalising drugs…….

This week an eminently sensible person made some eminently sensible statements about the UK’s current drugs legislation. In a newsletter sent out to barristers across the country, Nicholas Green QC, current chairman of the Bar Council of  England and Wales , said that Britain should consider decriminalising drugs. His words were picked up by the Daily Telegraph .This should have provided the platform from which a sensible debate about the drugs issue could be launched. What we got instead was the usual rabid reaction from the moral panic brigade which sought to shoot the messenger before he had a chance to elaborate any further on his hypothesis. Among those leading the charge was Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, who said: “It is is a ludicrous argument to say let’s legalise drugs.” Is it so ludicrous? Right now the illegality of drugs in the UK makes it an economy worth more than £10 billion to the organised crime groups involved in its trade. The devastation to society in terms of  the violence, fear and corruption created by the gangsters dealing in drugs is immeasurable and however effectively you fight the war against the drug barons, there is a plethora of others willing to step into the vacuum created by any successful battles waged by our law enforcement agencies. What is measurable is that illegal drugs costs the UK another £13 billion to police in terms of drug-related crime; much of which is leaving a bloody trail on the streets where gangs are fighting turf wars over the profits to be made from it. In the UK’s prisons alone the drug trade is worth another £100 million, because drugs such as heroin can fetch up to ten times the price inside compared to the price on the streets. There are people being murdered in the UK because illegal drugs equals money and the profits to be made from them make it worth a dealer arming himself with a firearm or knife to protect their business territory. There is no sign either that the illegality of drugs is doing anything to prevent people taking them – in fact quite the opposite – their very illegality continues to create a mystique about substances some of which have been around us for more than 2,000 years. Lets face it illegal drugs are harmful to the health but are there many illicit substances which are more harmful in their health effects and the cost of their abuse than alcohol and tobacco. I know many sensible people in both the legal profession and law enforcement who would not only support a debate on the issue but would actively support a change in legislation because they know that the war on drugs cannot be won from the position we are in right now. However, fearing a tagging as a moral heretic to be burned at the stake, their voices continue to remain publicly silent. Frankly I only see the situation getting worse because career paths are now being laid for our young people which are built on the trade of illegal drugs from the school gates to the housing estates and on to the trendy bars where a trip to the toilet for the affluent middle class member of society is often more about a line of cocaine from the cistern than a leak in the bowl. Nevertheless many respectable people in positions of authority who have thought-provoking things to say about this issue are being silenced because the media is failing to push forward the debate and instead promoting a moral panic. I am unsure myself about the legalisation of drugs but I am sure that at the moment it is the biggest issue facing this country and it is a subject which we should be debating in a sensible way. To that end the Telegraph did eventually have a sensible say on the matter through the column of its blogger and writer  Andrew M Brown.  So let’s try to promote debate not destroy it because we should know by now that hysteria is simply the realm of the ignorant and the misinformed.

The age of organised crime is upon us…..

Earlier this week the Met’s chief Sir Paul Stephenson indicated that dealing with organised crime was the biggest challenge that would face the UK’s law enforcement agencies in the coming years . He rightly raised concerns about how, in the current economic climate, police forces and the criminal justice system – faced with making huge budget cuts – would be able to meet the challenges of organised crime. The public could be forgiven for thinking that the agency specifically charged with combating the problem the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) , now in its fifth year, is on top of the problem. 
In fact SOCA is only dealing with the top tier of criminals and most of the middle and lower tier criminal gangs which are operating now out of Britain’s housing and industrial estates fall under the radar of SOCA. As a result these gangs are being left to grow perniciously because the specialist units which local police forces have to deal with them are few and far between. More than that these specialist units are the very ones that may be at risk when the current round of budget cuts being considered by all police authorities come into play. In Nottinghamshire it was this very scenario – the dismantling of its major crime unit and drugs squad, in 2000/2001 – which contributed to the rise in power of gangsters such as Colin Gunn from the city’s Bestwood estate. In today’s Telegraph there is a further warning about how organised crime is being imported imported and yet this is a problem that has been festering for some years; staring the politicians in the face. Perhaps a way forward would be for police forces which share geographical county borders to pool their resources into regional specialist units to tackle organised crime such as the East Midlands Special Operations Unit which uses the resources of five police forces to tackle organised crime and middle tier drugs dealers. Ultimately it will be for the politicians to decide where the axe falls on the ever thinning blue line, but if Sir Paul Stephenson is correct the UK could be in for a rocky ride ahead with the economic conditions giving rise to more wannabe Tony Sopranos than it can handle.

To kick things off…..

During the writing of  “Hoods” I encountered several disturbing examples of the corruption that is blighting the fight against organised crime. They are sobering stories that go some way to explaining why law-abiding people lose their faith in the authorities. Two particular individuals have suffered immeasurable damage and continue to do so. Kevin Musgrove and Trevor Wade, though they have never met, share a common bond. An extract from Hoods of Kevin Musgrove’s story (more of which is to be revealed over the coming weeks) can be found here . The bones of Trevor Wade’s case can be found in a story I co-wrote for The Guardian and there are further details in the notes section of the Facebook page dedicated to releasing him from his nightmare in prison here. If there is one thing I have learned in 22 years in journalism it is that innocent people can and do end up in prison for crimes they had nothing to do with.