Jan 6 2011 By Jack Griffith
A CAGE fighter and a shady businessmen who were part of one of the country's biggest criminal gangs have been jailed.
Aman Salhan (pictured), of Oxford Avenue, Harlington, and Maythem Al Ansari were imprisoned for 17 years and three years respectively for their involvement in a multi-million pound drugs ring, which ran out of a West London taxi rank.
They were two of 33 men sent down for various drug trafficking and money laundering offences, but only now that the final member of the gang has been convicted, can the details of the case be published.
In February 2008, more than 520 officers carried out a spate of drug raids, dubbed 'Operation Eaglewood', that took place simultaneously at 30 addresses across London.
At the time of the raid, cage fighter Salhan – who fought under the alias 'Ricky "Ninja" Salhan' - was in the Chertsey flat of Simon Ford, 41, a fire-fighter who received a bravery award after rescuing people from the number 30 bus blown up on Tavistock Road in the 7/7 terrorist attacks.
Officers found Ford dividing up cocaine for dealers. The drugs had been smuggled that morning by means of a inflatable rib boat, which docked at a beach in Kent.
Salhan, 28, was identified as Ford's assistant and sentenced to 17 years for conspiracy to import cocaine.
Ford was jailed for 14 years after admitting to money laundering and conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Police drove a JCB through the garden wall of Al Ansari's home, in Vine Lane, Uxbridge, to gain access to the property during the Eaglewood bust.
Through his business interests, Ansari had seemingly 'legitimate' access to large sums of money, making him the perfect cover for someone who wished to change drug money into less bulky high denomination Euro notes without attracting suspicion.
He supplied these Euros to Eyad Iltiklat, who ran Royal Oak Taxis, a legitimate taxi rental business in Paddington that became the hub of the cartel's criminal operations.
Ansari, 42, admitted to the money laundering charge last December.
Detective Superintendent Steve Richardson said: "Operation Eaglewood targeted the ring leaders of a criminal network, as well as the people working for them. They had been supplying drugs around the country, earning millions of pounds.
"The sentencing of 33 criminals to more than 200 years in prison represents a huge blow to the illegal drugs industry in the UK. These criminals had been living the lives of wealthy businessmen through their criminal activity. The lives they are leading now could not be more different."