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Courts move to seize Albanian businessman's Scottish assets

PROSECUTORS are trying to seize three homes from the official representative of the Albanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Scotland.

The Sunday Herald can reveal that a major proceeds of crime action has been launched against Glasgow-based businessman Sokol Zefaj.

The Crown Office believes Zefaj has profited from both drug dealing and fraud.

The CRU specialises in pursuing civil actions under proceeds of crime legislation against individuals whom the authorities are unable to prosecute in the criminal courts.

The unit on August 17, 2011, sought and achieved a special ruling from a judge at the Court of Session that effectively banned Zefaj from handling property in his name, including two flats, a house and money in three bank accounts.

This was a prohibitory property order, one of the first stages in pursuing a civil Proceeds of Crime Act, or Poca action.

"The order," said the Crown Office, "was granted on the basis of allegations that there was a good arguable case that the property was obtained through fraud and being concerned in the supply of controlled drugs."

The next stage in a Poca case would be to get a recovery order. That would effectively hand assets over to the Crown – and the Scottish Government. However, the CRU has not yet applied for such an order in respect of Zefaj.

Earlier, in June of last year, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland obtained another order, a notice of inhibition, that prevented Zefaj from selling a flat at Maxwell Road, Glasgow.

The Albanian, who was the official representative of the Albanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Scotland, also worked out of an office in Renfrew Street, Glasgow.

In 2009, he was refused a landlord's house in multiple occupancy (HMO) licence for the flat in Maxwell Road.

Zefaj's last recorded location was at a "care of" address of a friend in a small flat in St George's Cross, Glasgow. The Sunday Herald, however, was unable to contact him there.

The Albanian is one of hundreds of people targeted by the CRU every year, only a tiny number of whom are every named. Many targets settled out of court with the CRU and avoid publicity.

The Sunday Herald, using the Freedom of Information Act and obscure court registers, last week revealed the names of individuals pursued in several cases that had been resolved both in the courts and outside.

Those who handed over money or homes after such actions were alleged to have profited from brothel-keeping, identity theft, tax and mortgage fraud, and counterfeiting.

The CRU raises millions – more than £3 million by February of this financial year – but sees its main job as "disrupting" serious and organised criminals.

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