Jail for bogus officer who stripped family home of valuables

The leader of a gang who posed as Customs officers to ransack a family home of cash and jewellery has been jailed for six years.

Alexander Girvan produced a fake search warrant before he and his accomplices were allowed into the house, which was "ripped apart" as they hunted for valuables.

The criminals turned up at the address in Queen Mary Avenue, in Glasgow, smartly dressed in suits with Girvan carrying a clipboard and using a walkie talkie before they stole 20,000 and family jewellery after being allowed in.

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The judge, Lady Clark of Calton, told Girvan, 43, at the High Court in Edinburgh: "You have caused misery and mayhem in other people's lives, both to your family and to the victims."

She said a serious penalty had to be imposed.

Former businessman Girvan, of Glasgow Road, Rutherglen, earlier admitted committing the theft on July 14 last year with others unknown at the home of Raja Ali, 74, and his wife Shamim Akhtar, 68.

The couple were not at home at the time but a son, Zulfqar Ali, 31, and son-in-law Sohail Aurangzen, 25, became aware of five men standing at the door. Girvan said they were Customs and Excise men and they were going to search the house.

He showed Mr Aurangzeb documents which had the appearance of a search warrant and the men were allowed into the family home. Mr Ali and Mr Aurangzeb were told go and sit in another room.

Mr Ali asked to see the men's identification but was told by Girvan, who witnesses described as the "main man" and "ringleader": "I have got a warrant. You cannot ask me for identification."

During the search of the house a daughter arrived with her husband and child, but were placed in a separate room from their relatives and told not to use mobile phones. After the house fell silent the occupants realised that the men in suits had disappeared.

The gang ransacked the premises with one female member of the household describing it as "a site of devastation". Cash used in the running of a family business which was in the kitchen was taken.

Days later Girvan became the target for a drugs search by police but when officers began checking on his home jewellery was found. The search also uncovered nearly half a kilo of cocaine worth up to 27,000.

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Girvan also earlier admitted being concerned in the supply of the of the Class A drug, when he appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

Sheriff Kenneth Mitchell sent the case to the High Court with its greater powers of sentencing. The sheriff said he regarded the theft as very serious.It had clearly been well planned and was described by the prosecutor as an "audacious theft", he added.

Defence counsel Tony Graham said first offender Girvan had never been in trouble before and was previously a successful entrepreneur.

But he said he went into a rapid descent after becoming addicted to cocaine and it reached the stage where he was unable to afford his drug habit.

He said a man from "an utterly respectable background" had found himself in the company of those who exploited drug addicts by introducing them to crime.