The Premier League Football Club owners and a £1 million loan to a crime lord

 

West Ham United co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan give the Hammer salute flanked to the right by crime boss David Hunt

West Ham United co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan give the Hammers salute flanked to the right by crime boss David Hunt

The wealthy co-owner of a Premier League football club made a £1m loan to a company controlled by David Hunt – three months after a High Court judge named Mr Hunt as the head of an organised crime network.

A company owned by David Sullivan, the multi-millionaire boss of West Ham United, lent the money to the East End businessman’s property company soon after Mr Justice Simon concluded that Mr Hunt led a gang involved in fraud, money-laundering and “extreme violence”.

The loan was secured against several of Mr Hunt’s properties, including a golf club in Essex and a restaurant once owned by the actor Sir Sean Connery and the late West Ham captain Bobby Moore, who led England to World Cup glory in 1966.

Mr Sullivan’s company, GC CO NO 102 Limited, made the loan to Mr Hunt’s company in October last year. In January, Mr Sullivan, a former pornography tycoon listed as Britain’s 224th richest man with assets worth £400m, placed this company into voluntary liquidation and declared liabilities of just £90, suggesting the loan to Mr Hunt had been quickly repaid.

David Hunt – nicknamed “Long Fella” – was officially exposed last summer in a judgment by Mr Justice Simon after the crime boss brought an unsuccessful libel action against The Sunday Times.

A catalogue of damning claims emerged during the trial, including allegations that Scotland Yard viewed Mr Hunt’s gang, which had operated with impunity for more than 20 years, as “too big” and “too dangerous” to take on. During a covert operation codenamed Blackjack, the Metropolitan Police placed bugging equipment in a car showroom, which picked up an attack by Mr Hunt in which he had slashed the face of a man named Paul Cavanagh, who had upset an associate.

Mr Hunt was arrested and charged with the attack. But the prosecution dropped the case after Mr Cavanagh withdrew his statement to police. A High Court judge would later find that Mr Hunt had intimidated him into not giving evidence for the prosecution. Mr Justice Simon also concluded that Mr Hunt had attacked and threatened to kill Billy Allen, a property developer, in 2006. “It was the sort of power and authority that might be expected from the head of a criminal network,” said the judge, who also ruled that Mr Hunt had engaged in money-laundering.

Three months after the libel trial had concluded, Mr Sullivan’s finance company made the £1m loan to Mr Hunt’s company, Hunt’s UK Properties. The West Ham co-chairman’s loan was secured against several properties including Woolston Manor Golf Club in Chigwell, Essex. This luxurious setting has twice come to the attention of investigators in unconnected matters. In 2006, Metropolitan Police officers raided the club and found cases of Bollinger champagne which had recently been stolen from a lorry. In 2008, Peter Pomfrett, a director at the same club, was jailed for 10 years over his role in a £37.5m fraud.

Two months after Mr Sullivan’s company made the loan to Mr Hunt’s firm, our sister newspaper The Independent revealed a secret Metropolitan Police report – codenamed Operation Tiberius and dated 2002 – which concluded the crime-lord’s gang had been helped to evade justice by a network of corrupt serving and former police officers.

“The Hunt syndicate has developed an extensive criminal empire which has so far evaded significant penetration from law enforcement,” said the Operation Tiberius report. “The syndicate has achieved this invulnerability through a mixture of utilising corrupt police contacts and the intimidation of witnesses brave enough to give evidence against them.” It added: “The Hunt syndicate is one of the most violent groups in north-east London and has been responsible for a series of vicious assaults against debtors and rivals. Their main sphere of influence is drug importation and protection.”

The report by the Met’s anti-corruption team names four Met detectives “associated” with the syndicate, one of whom is high-profile and has given evidence to Parliament. Operation Tiberius reported that corrupt officers betrayed the Met by telling the Hunt syndicate about tracking devices placed on its vehicles, leaking information about police inquiries and carrying out checks on police intelligence databases. Scotland Yard refuses to comment on Operation Tiberius.

In the same month that The Independent reported details of Operation Tiberius, Mr Sullivan placed GC CO NO 102 Limited into voluntary liquidation.

The 65-year-old made his fortune in pornography magazines and sex shops during the 1970s. In 1986, he founded the Sunday Sport newspaper, offering fanciful stories with headlines such as “World War 2 Bomber Found on Moon”. Mr Sullivan moved into sport with the acquisition of Birmingham Football Club in 1993, appointing Karren Brady – star of The Apprentice, who is close to David Cameron and George Osborne – as managing director. He sold up in 2007 and bought West Ham in 2010.

Mr Sullivan’s club has secured Premier League survival this season under manager Sam Allardyce. In two years’ time, West Ham will move into the Olympic stadium in Stratford, east London, which was built for the 2012 Olympic Games using £500m of taxpayers’ money.

A spokesman for Mr Sullivan said: “GC CO NO 102 Limited is a finance company, it makes loans to numerous people and companies. This was a normal commercial loan at a normal commercial rate.”

A spokesperson for Mr Hunt said: “My client runs a perfectly legitimate property company which, like most property companies, borrows money from time to time from commercial lenders. He has no further comment to make about this matter.”

The mystery of the 19-year-old unsolved murder of city taxi driver

ETHSHAM “Shami” Ghafoor was a popular, outgoing man who made friends easily and was well respected within the cabbie fraternity.

What is also clear is that the young Asian taxi driver was troubled by something that he kept from his family, a secret which perhaps holds the key to why he was executed in a cold, clinical and brutal fashion in the early hours of a cold dark November morning in a lonely car park 19 years ago.

His work as a driver often took him on relatively arduous journeys, a long way from the taxi pitch outside Nottingham’s Victoria Shopping Centre. A round trip to Manchester, a job down in London, an airport pick up now and again. These were all journeys he took in his stride. Despite the long hours he worked, nothing seemed to get Shami down.

Ethsham Ghafoor brutally murdered aged 26

Ethsham Ghafoor brutally murdered aged 26

But as the autumnal evenings drew in towards the middle of November 1994 in his hometown of Nottingham, something was clearly playing on his mind. His family and his closest friends noticed his bright and breezy demeanor had been replaced by a troubled soul at times. Shami brushed off their concerns, he wasn’t the sort of man to burden others with his own problems.

 

Little is known about Shami’s movements on November 21 and 22 1994. He was spotted at a petrol station at the junction of Mapperley Plains and Wooodthorpe Drive, just after midnight. Then, at about 4.30 am, a milkman doing his early rounds on November 22 spotted Shami black and white Ford Sierra car in a desolate car park near playing fields off Lambley Lane.

The scene of Shami's execution sometime between 1am and 4am on November 22 1994

The scene of Shami’s execution sometime between 1am and 4am on November 22 1994

As the milkman drew closer he could see that there was a man in the car, who at first seemed asleep. The full horror of his discovery became apparent as he got to the car, 26-year-old Shami had been shot dead. He had two gunshot wounds from what police were later able to ascertain was a semi-automatic handgun. The murder weapon has never been recovered.

Former Detective Superintendent Chris Barnfather of Nottinghamshire Police said during a re-investigation of the murder in 2004: “It bore all the hallmarks of an execution. Mr Ghafoor had been shot once to the side, to incapacitate him, and then between the eyes. I do not believe robbery was a motive.”

Shami had a somewhat unconventional domestic life. He was married with a child on the way, but he also had a lover with whom he had another child. While this may have been unorthodox, Shami was not leading a double life, on the domestic front at least. Both partners were aware of the other as were Shami’s family and it was not a source of conflict for either. Yet somehow, in the absence of hard evidence, it lead police down a path which resulted in Shami’s lover being wrongly suspected of hiring a hitman to murder Shami. The pursuit of this motive without any hard evidence led to the Crown Prosecution Service rightly dropping the charges against her in October 1995.

Since then there have been no arrests in connection with Shami’s death and as the years have passed the trail appeared to have gone cold. One of the keys to unlocking the mystery may well lie in those long journeys Shami undertook in his black and white Ford Sierra car outside Nottinghamshire, other significant clues may lie in Shami’s movements in the weeks leading up to the murder and the crucial missing three hours when Shami was last seen at the petrol station to the discovery of his body.

Now a fresh pairs of eyes from Nottinghamshire Police are being trained on the mystery of Ethsham “Shami” Ghafoor’s shocking death. In tandem with the cold case review of the murder, Shami’s family have launched a Facebook page on the 19th anniversary of Shami’s deathin the hope that they can jog the memories of people.

Detective Chief Inspector Tony Heydon, who is leading the cold case review, said: “Shami was part of a very close-knit family, and his death has left each and every one of them devastated over the years. We are working closely with the family and supporting their public appeal which is using social media.

“Since 1994, the ways people provide information or communicate has changed significantly, and it may be that there are people out there who know who is responsible for Shami’s murder but have never come forward before. Now is the time to put Shami’s family first and help them find closure. Their Facebook group shows just how desperate for justice they are, and if you know anything you could help them.”

The Facebook page focusing of Shami’s murder and the impact his death has had on his family can be found at http://www.facebook.com/justiceforEthshamShamiGhafoor.

Just as people will remember where they were when they heard John F Kennedy was shot dead on November 22 1963 in Dallas, there are people who will never forget where they were when they heard that Ethsham “Shami” Ghafoor had been shot dead on November 22 1994 in Nottingham.

Shami’s family are appealing for people to visit their Facebook page and for anyone with any information to contact the incident room on 0115 844 6912 or ring Crimestoppers, in confidence, on 0800 555 111.