ORGANISED criminals are running sweet shops as money-laundering operations.


The gangsters have moved in on the confectionary industry the same way they did with private-hire car firms, ice-cream vans and tanning salons.

Crooks are employing respectable, law-abiding, people to run the stores, which have been opening across Glasgow, for them.

But often the shops, which are owned by gangsters' families, are a front to commit crimes.

The Evening Times understands some gangsters' sweetie shops are also used to distribute drugs.

Detective Superintendent Andy Gunn, head of the Organised Crime Unit in Glasgow, told the Evening Times: "Tackling serious organised crime is one of Police Scotland's top priorities, and where it infiltrates legitimate business, we will take action.

"Serious and organised criminals will exploit every opportunity to make cash.

"If there's money to be made, serious and organised criminals will do whatever it takes to get involved."

Police sources said they believed the confectionary shops were laundering cash from drugs and prostitution.

It is understood the crooks do this by creating fake customers - shown on their books to have purchased items in cash.

Detectives are currently monitoring more than 40 underworld gangs in Glasgow who "employ" around 900 people.

An underworld insider said: "Sweet shops are the perfect cover.

"Who pays for their sweets with a credit card? Nobody. It's always cash, which is ideal if you're trying to clean money and make it disappear into your business."

The Evening Times previously told how cops have arrested 570 Glasgow gangsters and seized more than £13million in illegal assets in the past year.

Rackets include drugs, prostitution, money laundering, tobacco smuggling, counterfeit goods, extortion and the use of legitimate businesses across all sectors.

Mr Gunn added: "Serious and organised criminals are driven by power and profit.

"All they care about is making money and the consequences of crimes, such as drug dealing, are irrelevant to them.

"They will identify a weakness in an individual or community and capitalise on that.

"There is absolutely no conscious involved in what do, they don't care about the risk or harm to other people. They only care about profit."

In recent years, gangsters have been forced out of the taxi trade by tough laws and enhanced legislation.

Detectives have been working with prosecutors and council chiefs to stop organised crime taking over private hire firms and using them as a cover for money laundering, drug dealing and prostitution.

Mr Gunn said recent action to crackdown gangsters trying to muscle in on taxi firms had been "successful" but warned there is more work to be done.

As police begin to cut off crooks from legitimate businesses in certain industries, they branch out into new sectors, including nurseries, pubs, and nightclubs.

He said: "As we get more successful at stopping them, they look to adapt and move into new businesses.

"Our action against serious and organised criminals is two pronged.

"We can use proceeds of crime legislation to deprive them of the cash they have made illegally and we can also stop them from making cash legitimately.

"Their money, which funds their lifestyle and their status symbols, such as big houses and flash cars, enhance their reputation within the serious and organised crime world.

"If you we don't stop them, and make a difference to the lives of people in the community, then we are not doing our job right."