Government freezes drugs profits

A MUM who made more than £160,000 from an industrial-scale cannabis operation in Ipswich has had her assets frozen by a specialist government agency, it emerged today.

A MUM who made more than £160,000 from an industrial-scale cannabis operation in Ipswich has had her assets frozen by a specialist government agency, it emerged today.

The Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) has been granted a property freezing order in the High Court in London over assets worth around £389,000 held by 29-year-old Phu Ha Bui, of Ipswich Road, Colchester.

Bui used the money her brother, Anh Ha Bui, made in the illegal operation, based at properties in London Road, Norwich Road and Clarkson Street, to pay off nearly all of her £221,250 mortgage in just three years.

She was convicted of acquiring criminal property at Ipswich Crown Court last year and sentenced to a total of five years in jail, reduced to four years following an appeal last month.

In obtaining the freezing order, the Agency successfully contended to the High Court that Bui's assets were made from unlawful conduct, namely cannabis production and money laundering.

The assets frozen under the order include a property at Ipswich Road, Colchester, a BMW car and money held in a bank account.

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Charlie Dickin, deputy director of operations at the ARA, said: “We have made a good, arguable case to the High Court that these assets were derived from the proceeds of unlawful activity.

“The effect of the property freezing order will prevent them from being dissipated while our financial investigators continue with their investigations to establish both their source and any other assets which we will seek to recover where appropriate.

“We will continue to use our civil recovery powers to target the assets of those who are involved in serious crime”.

When police searched the properties in May 2006, they found about 150kg of cannabis, with a street value of more than £400,000.

In August 2006, officers searched Phu's then home, in Colchester, and found electric cabling in her garden shed, as well as other paraphernalia used in the other three premises.

On arrest, she had £161,000 in her bank account.

Her brother Anh Ha Bui, 34, was convicted last year of conspiring to produce cannabis at the same hearing, and sentenced to four years' imprisonment.

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BUI'S case was referred to the ARA in October 2007 by Suffolk Constabulary after a previous attempt to seize her assets proved unsuccessful.

The bid by Suffolk police and the Crown Prosecution Service to reclaim cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act proved less than lucrative when an application to seize up to £300,000 in assets from Ha Phu Bui had to be dismissed by a judge because the claim was not made quickly enough, rendering the application “time-barred”.

A total of £20,410 was seized from Anh Hai Bui, 34, and Phuong Thi Vu.

Judge Peter Thompson described the failure to proceed with the confiscation of assets from Ha Phu Bui as an “error” and the prosecution revealed they would be passing the case on to the ARA.

VIETNAMESE nationals Anh Hai Bui, his sister Ha Phu Bui as well as Phuong Thi Vu, Tham Thi Hoang and Tranh Tran were involved in growing as much as £1.5m of cannabis at houses in Clarkson Street, London Road and Norwich Road.

The gang was jailed for a total of 14 years.

Although Ha Phu Bui was not convicted of growing the cannabis, she was found guilty at Ipswich Crown Court of making money from crime.

Tham Thi Hoang and Tranh Tran were sentenced to 18 months in prison. Thi Vu was jailed for 21 months.