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Big Bluff brought to book

Published Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The first man in the United Kingdom to be jailed for money laundering in connection with the running of an illegal poker den has been ordered to pay £50,000.

Ahmet Melin, 35, of Cheshunt, Herts, was ordered to pay the money at a hearing at Wood Green Crown Court on Monday 27 July 2015.

The court ruled that he had made in excess of £400,000 through running an illegal poker club, but currently has assets of around £50,000, which the judge ordered he should forfeit, but that if any further assets come to light the court can reappraise the amount Melin has to pay.

Melin, had denied culpability, but was found guilty of five offences of money laundering under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 on Thursday 10th April 2014 and was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment at Wood Green Crown Court after he was prosecuted by Enfield Council.

At that trial the judge told Melin that a prison sentence was “inevitable” pointing out that the money he made was not going back into the business, which he had claimed was a ‘private members club’ when seeking a club gaming permit, but was instead paying it into his own account and that modest people from modest backgrounds used the venue as well as professional gamblers.

The judge added that Melin had a long-standing involvement with gambling clubs, and that the operation was run illegally from the outset with poker as its main function. Melin was constantly pushing the boundaries minimising his own role through the use of false accounts and minutes. Melin regarded it as the local authority’s job to stop him from breaking the law.

Melin was prosecuted after Enfield Council enforcement officers found the Big Bluff Private Members Club in Green Lanes; Palmers Green was actually a front for an illegal poker club and not a non-profit making private members club in line with its Club Gaming Permit.

Commercial poker operations require a casino licence and Enfield Council’s policy is not to issue casino licences to properties in the borough.

Because Big Bluff was operating large poker tournaments and all the profits from them were illegal they amounted to criminal assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act because Melin was withdrawing money from the club for his own purposes.

The club was raided in September 2012 by Enfield Council’s Licensing Enforcement and Trading Standards Teams, the Gambling Commission and the Metropolitan Police.

The Big Bluff Private Members Club has since stopped operating.

Enfield Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr Daniel Anderson, said: “Enfield Council took swift and decisive action when we found out the Big Bluff Private Members Club was a front for an illegal poker den.

“I’m pleased that because of Enfield Council’s tenacity the court has ordered this individual to forfeit £50,000 of this criminally obtained money and we will, of course, seek to recover more if we discover Melin has further assets, which have been concealed from the court.

”We will not tolerate illegal behaviour in Enfield and will continue to take firm action against anyone stupid enough to break the law. This decision clearly shows that crime does not pay, and where people seek to make a profit from illegal activities we will always seek to recover that cash so the people involved do not profit from it.”

Nick Tofiluk, the Commission’s Director of Regulatory Operations said: "This is an excellent example of how a local authority with Gambling Commission support is dealing with illegal gambling in whatever guise it is presented. The message is simple - if you offer poker in a club and are breaking the law, action can and will be taken."

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