COURT ORDERS CLUB OWNER TO PAY £1 MILLION FINE
The owner of Plymouth’s Dance Academy nightclub has been ordered to pay £1million within six months — or face another five years in jail. Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh was jailed for nine years in 2008 for allowing the supply of Class A drugs at the club. Now Plymouth Crown Court has ordered him to pay the huge sum following a Proceeds Of Crime Act application by the Crown Prosecution Service. Under the Act, assets deemed to have come from his crime could be seized and confiscated.
Yesterday, following behind-the-scenes negotiations by two top barristers, the CPS came up with the agreed figure. Geoffrey Mercer QC said the agreed benefit Bahmanzadeh had derived from the drug-dealing in his club was £1 million, and since his available assets exceeded that, £1 million was what he should pay.
He said the schedule of Bahmanzadeh’s assets included disputed bank accounts held in the Channel Islands, but since Bahmanzadeh had sufficient other assets to meet the £1 million bill, the ‘Jersey accounts’ were not an issue which would ever be needed to be resolved by the courts.
Asked by Judge Francis Gilbert about the Dance Academy, in Union Street, Mr Mercer said the property remained in Bahmanzadeh’s ownership. The defence had valued the building at a nominal £1, while the prosecution reckoned it was worth £50,000 to £100,000. But how Bahmanzadeh raises the agreed £1 million was up to him, the court heard. Mr Mercer asked for £75,000 prosecution costs — £60,000 for the trial and £15,000 for the confiscation proceedings. Francis Fitzgibbon QC, for Bahmanzadeh, said the costs would be hard for a man already under pressure to find, describing their imposition as “setting him up to fail”. But Judge Gilbert said the costs were “modest” and ordered Bahmanzadeh to pay them in full within six months, together with the £1million.
The Dance Academy closed four years ago when it was raided by police after a huge undercover operation.
Bahmanzadeh, who lived above the club, and his DJ and manager Thomas Costelloe were both convicted after a trial at Plymouth Crown Court in July 2008. They were snared after undercover police officers began monitoring the club in December 2005, eventually sending in 140 riot police to raid the premises in May 2006. Sixteen drug dealers were later prosecuted and jailed for their activities there. Both men denied allowing the dealing to take place, claiming they did their best to stop it and that the Dance Academy had a ‘zero tolerance’ drugs policy.
But 21 officers gave evidence at their trial, and claimed dealing at the club was ‘overt and blatant’.
Four years ago, Bahmanzadeh appealed against the closure of The Academy by Plymouth City Council, the appeal being renewed after three months. The council asked the court to formally dismiss the spent appeals to clear the paperwork from its and the court’s books. But Mr Fitzgibbon was granted 21 days for Bahmanzadeh to take legal advice and consider his position
by 247 Magazine