POLICE today smashed an illegal gambling ring operating in Edinburgh after staging an early morning raid against the organised criminals behind the scheme.
More than 20 officers swooped on a former hairdresser’s shop in Dalry Road at 5am alongside officials from the Gambling Commission.
One man, believed to be the den’s boss, was led away in handcuffs while several suspected gamblers were escorted off the premises by officers.
The raid was the culmination of a three-day crackdown by Lothian and Borders Police targeting the profits made by criminals in the force area.
More than 280 police officers have taken part in a string of raids in one of the largest enforcement operations ever undertaken by Lothian and Borders Police.
Operation Opulent has been the enforcement phase of the Made From Crime? Campaign, which aims to identify those making cash illegally through crime.
Four police vans filled with officers had left Fettes police HQ at 4.30am to carry out today’s raid on the former shop across from Bensons bar in Dalry Road.
The illegal club was set out with green baize tables and chairs for card games. A concealed CCTV camera had been installed above the front door to monitor visitors to the former shop which has boarded up windows.
One local man, who asked not to be named, said: “There are always people going in and out at all hours. People wondered what was going on.”
A police sniffer dog was taken into the premises, which also included a basement, while a team of search officers carried out a sweep of the building.
A trio of Gambling Commission officials were also part of the search operation. They had been called in to investigate possible violation of gambling laws.
Much of this week’s activity has been as a direct result of intelligence and information which has been provided by the public since the launch of the campaign in August.
A dedicated Facebook page was set up to direct people with tip-offs to Crimestoppers as part of the scheme. In the first month since the launch, Crimestoppers reported a 17 per cent rise in all calls for the force area.
On Wednesday, two addresses were raided in the West Lothian area and £4415 in cash was seized. Two people were charged in connection with the swoop.
On the same day in East Lothian and Midlothian, five arrests were made as police recovered £11,550 worth of drugs after targeting three addresses.
A total of £40,000 in cash was seized in Edinburgh on Monday with one arrest made.
Detective Superintendent David Gordon, head of Lothian and Borders Police’s Serious Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), said: “This campaign was deliberately designed to be ambitious and tenacious and target criminals who believed they could live lavish lifestyles from the proceeds of crime.
“The response we had from local communities throughout the intelligence gathering phase was fantastic, and showed that they were not prepared to tolerate criminality in their area.
“The months of planning for the enforcement phase have paid off throughout the past few days, and we are delighted with the results.
“This is not the end of our activity and I would appeal to people to continue to come forward with this vital intelligence so that we can actively pursue those living beyond their means. We will not stand for criminality in our communities.”
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “Every arrest or seizure made by the police is another step towards ridding organised crime from our society and I welcome the progress that has been made by Lothian and Borders Police since the launch of this campaign.
“I thank every member of the public whose information has helped bring those making a comfortable living from crime to justice.
“Passing on information on illegal activities in your area to the police allows them to continue doing an excellent job in cracking down on those who bring misery upon our streets.”
Kate Jackson, national manager for Crimestoppers Scotland, said: “It is clear that the public are keen to make a difference in their area by reporting criminals and wrongdoing and I would urge anyone with information to report it anonymously to Crimestoppers. We do not take your name or record your call but we are interested in what you can tell us.”
The volume of assets being seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has soared in recent years, with SOCU identifying £6.5 million of assets to be seized from gang members in the 12 months up to August.
Campaign hits mark
MORE than £68,000 in cash has been taken from suspected criminals and £6.5 million worth of assets have been referred for seizure in one of the largest operations ever undertaken by Lothian and Borders Police.
Drugs worth £21,190 and counterfeit goods to the value of £13,000 were also seized during Operation Opulent, the enforcement phase of the Made From Crime? campaign which targets those making cash through crime.
For the past three days across the Lothian and Borders Police Force area, action has been taken against those allegedly living on the proceeds of crime.
Much of the activity has been as a direct result of intelligence and information provided by the public since the launch of the campaign.
At its launch in August, Assistant Chief Constable Iain Livingstone urged people to make use of anonymous reporting to the independent charity Crimestoppers, either via telephone or through an innovative social media campaign.
Lothian and Borders Police used targeted Facebook advertising to link to the anonymous reporting site which, combined with the telephone number, is said to have generated significant amounts of intelligence.
In the first month of the campaign, Crimestoppers reported a 17 per cent increase in all calls for the force area to the charity.