United Kingdom

Man, 40, who 'enjoyed luxury lifestyle' was caught with Bentleys and stolen artwork, court hears 

A jetsetter whose luxury lifestyle was funded by 'unexplained wealth' was found with Bentleys, stolen artwork, houses worth £5million and a 'party box' of drugs, a jury has heard.

Aram Sheibani, 40, told his girlfriend 'don't tell them anything' as police escorted him from his apartment in Bowdon, Greater Manchester, a judge heard at Manchester Crown Court.

During a raid on his home officers found £160,000 in cash and cocaine in his safe, a jury was told on the second day of his trial.  

Sheibani bought himself a Bentley, and documents show a deposit of £25,000 was paid, however his bank statements only show a transfer of £5,000, it was said.

'He also bought a white Bentley convertible, bought in California, brand new, and paid $250,000 in cash,' according to prosecutor Nicholas Clarke QC.

Aram Sheibani (pictured) told his girlfriend 'don't tell them anything' as police escorted him from his apartment in Bowdon, Greater Manchester, a judge heard at Manchester Crown Court

Officers also found a piece of paper displaying 24 handwritten words later recognised to be a cryptocurrency recovery seed and code for a Bitcoin wallet valued at the time at £136,000 - now said to be worth over £1.5m. 

Drugs, two 'encro' phones, two cash counting machines and the keys to a black Porsche Panamera parked outside were also found, the court heard.

And a cache of drugs, thought to be a 'party box', containing cocaine, MDMA, Viagra and numbing cream was seized by police, it was said.

On the same day police executed search warrants at three safety deposit box facilities where more cash, laptops, an Apple Macbook and two Porsche keys were found. 

Pictured, one of the packages of cash found by police after a number of raids

Mr Clarke QC said: 'He has had significant sums of unaccounted-for cash passing into and out of his bank accounts in the UK and abroad, affording a lifestyle where designer goods, expensive artwork (albeit some of it stolen) and frequent international travel have been the norm.

'He also bought two military-grade "encro" phones, which are very difficult to crack, extremely specialist and expensive.

'The Prosecution says high level criminals use "encro" phones to conceal criminal activities from enquiring eyes of law enforcement agencies.'    

Officers also found a 'Mission Impossible' Ironkey USB storage device which was said to be tamper-proof, costly, and if more than ten passwords are entered incorrectly, the device destroys all the data contained within it.

Sheibani bought himself a Bentley, and documents show a deposit of £25,000 was paid, however his bank statements only show a transfer of £5,000, it was said

It was said despite many requests for passwords for the 'encro' phones and the Ironkey, to this day Sheibani has not provided the information.

The Crown alleges that Sheibani's tax records are incomplete and there are a number of years where he has failed to file a tax return or declare any income, profits or capital gains.

Mr Sheibani paid for a number of cosmetic surgeries including a nose job 

It was said there were significant deposits which were not rental receipts, into his bank accounts such as more than £267,000 from selling watches and £50,100 from the sale of gold coins. 

The total bank deposits and unidentified cash/unknown payments is totalled at over £3m, it's alleged.

The court heard Sheibani travelled frequently within Europe, then from 2010 he began flying internationally to Dubai, Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Colombia.

'The police have got his passport, and he went to Colombia and visited three different cities there,' the prosecutor added.

'Mr Sheibani was also subject to two border agency stops, where there were seizures of further significant amounts of cash.'

On July 17, 2011, he was stopped at Manchester Airport after arriving back from Ibiza and following a search he was found with over €42,000 wrapped inside a plastic bag.

Less than 12 months later he was intercepted again and found with more cash, it was said.

The court heard there were multiple Proceeds of Crime Act warrants executed at several addresses connected to Sheibani in Manchester and London.

Officers attended at an apartment in Bowdon, lived in at that time by Sheibani and his girlfriend, it was said.

Pictured, the cocaine discovered following the search warrants

He attempted to 'frustrate' the police investigation by not answering the door and 'destroying evidence until officers forced their way in through the communal door, prosecutors said.

Once inside, he initially appeared compliant, directing officers to a large metal safe which he said contained £150,000 in cash and cocaine, jurors were told.

As he was being escorted from the flat, he shouted to his girlfriend: 'Don't tell them anything, go no comment* they will try to scare you into talking so say no comment'. 

In the police interview he answered no comment to all questions asked and refused to hand over passwords for his mobile phones, computers and the USB Ironkey, the court heard. 

Mr Clarke QC added: 'Two pieces of the artwork also seized from the apartment have since been identified as Launderette and Fallen by Ray Caesar - only 20 prints are in circulation.

'Also Golf Sale by Banksy and Ships by Andy Warhol were recovered.

'These artworks, we say, were all stolen by use of debit cards, where the payment would initially go through, then it was reversed and the items were then stolen.' 

Sheibani denies dishonestly obtaining money transfers; fraud; forgery; converting criminal property; possession of criminal property; conspiracy to supply controlled drugs (cocaine) and perverting the course of justice.

The trial continues. 

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