Criminal gangs could use hair salons as bases for human and drug trafficking, expert warns
Criminal gangs could use hair salons as bases for human trafficking, forced labor and drugs, security expert warns
- Gangs use some businesses to conceal proceeds of crime, sources say
- Hair salons across the UK could be a base for human trafficking and slave labor
Hair salons are one of the fastest growing businesses on the high street – but officials fear they are increasingly being used as a front for organized crime.
Security sources told the Mail on Sunday that gangs are using some businesses to conceal the proceeds of crime, and that many could be a base for human trafficking and slave labor in the same way as nail bars and car washes have been used in the past.
The explosion of hair salons in London and other major UK cities has prompted experts to call for an investigation.
Some are run by Albanian and Kurdish gangs suspected of making money by smuggling tens of thousands of migrants from Calais to Dover on trucks and small boats across the English Channel.
Former Metropolitan Police officer Ali Hassan Ali said: “Across the main streets we have seen a boom in barbers opening up since the pandemic.
Hair salons are one of the fastest growing businesses on the high street – but officials fear they are increasingly being used as a front for organized crime (stock image)
“A lot of these stores have thousands of pounds of equipment but no customers.
“Although in some cases the shops are involved in legitimate business, in my own experience there is strong reason to believe that a large number, especially those owned by Albanians, Turks and Kurds , have links to organized crime.
“It can be human trafficking and, in some cases, drugs.
“We know that the smuggling gangs in Calais were traditionally run by Kurds, but they are now working with Albanians.”
He added: ‘The sudden rise of hair salons is truly concerning as they play a role in funding human trafficking and the resulting misery.’ The latest data compiled by the National Hair and Beauty Federation shows that between 2014 and 2019 the number of hair salons in the UK increased by 64%, from 7,958 to 13,046.
At the same time, higher-end hair salons saw a 21% increase, from 13,694 in 2014 to 16,559 in 2019.
While the pandemic has reduced the number of hair salons and hair salons, they are increasing again to pre-pandemic levels.
Last year, a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation revealed that Gul Wali Jabarkhel, 33, was using his hair salon in Colindale, north London, as a front for organized crime. The Afghan was trying to recruit lorry drivers to bring migrants from northern France and Belgium to the UK, offering around £2,500 per person smuggled.
As the pandemic has reduced the number of hair salons and hair salons, they are increasing again to pre-pandemic levels (stock image)
He was arrested in his barbershop and last April he was imprisoned for ten years. Three other associates received shorter sentences.
The NCA recently warned that the amount of crime money leaving the UK has increased ‘exponentially’ over the past four years, driven by Albanian drug gangs sending the money at their home.
Organized crime syndicates from the Balkan state have nearly taken over the UK cocaine market, while Turkish gangs have traditionally dominated the heroin supply.
Trusted associates will be responsible for returning the proceeds of crime with companies used as a front to “clean up the money”.
If caught, they can claim the wealth comes from a UK-based business, such as car washes, nail bars or hair salons.
Glyn Rankin, who previously worked for the Human Trafficking Centre, which has become part of the NCA, said: ‘People smuggled into the UK may be required to work in these shops until their debt is paid. We should look at them like we did at nail bars and car washes.
Last night an NCA spokesperson said: ‘Money laundering is a key driver of serious and organized crime. The NCA and its partners in law enforcement, government and the private sector are committed to disrupting the flow of illicit money and preventing organized criminals from profiting from their crimes.