Mon, 09 Dec 2019
POLICE found tens of thousands of pounds hidden in a wall and a “distressed” human trafficking victim when they raided a Newbury business.
The routine ‘check for welfare’ led to a police investigation into modern slavery, trafficking and money laundering at a town centre premises.
Police did not proceed with criminal charges.
But they did launch a Proceeds Of Crime Act (POCA) bid to recover the owner and her partner’s ill-gotten gains.
Reading magistrates heard how police made a “routine welfare check” at the Manhattan Nails bar in Bartholomew Street, Reading Magistrates Court heard yesterday (Wednesday).
The arrest of Hung Dang, 49, and his partner My Anh Tran was announced in a press release by Thames Valley Police in But the case was quietly dropped, with no charges brought, in February this year.
During the POCA hearing police sought to recover the £48,000 they found, largely stashed in £1,000 bundles in a secret compartment at the property, which comprised both the nail bar business and the family home where Mr Dang and Ms Tran, aged 33, brought up their two children.
The bar for a successful action under POCA is set much lower than the criminal standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ – police only have to prove the gains were ill-gotten ‘on the balance of probability’.
An accredited financial investigator for the police, Marcus Webb, said the most probable explanation for the hidden cash was money laundering.
Mr Dang denied this and claimed it was the proceeds from his successful gambling.
Mr Webb said during the routine welfare check on October 17, 2017, officers found a boy aged 15 working and “seemingly in distress”.
It has since emerged that the child had been trafficked to the UK.
Mr Dang and Ms Tran were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and modern slavery offences, the court heard.
Mr Webb said he has written to Mr Dang five times asking for an explanation of how he accrued £48,000 when he is not permitted to work in this country, but had never received a reply.
Ms Tran told police she had no knowledge of the hidden money.
She opposes the police bid to recover around £7,000 found on the premises which she says belongs to her.
The court heard Mr Dang regularly left The Nags Head pub in Newbury to place bets on horseracing and football or to play machine roulette.
Giving evidence, he claimed to be a successful gambler.
He also claimed his mother had travelled from Vietnam to give him £20,000 for the family, but was unable to provide any evidence to back the claim.
He admitted hiding it from his partner in the secret hideaway in the wall.
Regarding the human trafficking issue, Mr Dang insisted the boy had approached him in the street asking for help.
Asked if he had realised he was just a boy, Mr Dang replied: “I didn’t know.”
Asked why he had not sought help for him, Mr Dang replied: “I don’t know the law here. I helped him out for a couple of days.”
Mr Dang also denied that an expensive Mercedes car registered by someone with the same name was anything to do with him.
For the outcome of the hearing, see Thursday's Newbury Weekly News.