A man behind one of the UK’s most prolific and illegal property sub-letting operations has been sentenced to seven years and four months in jail following an investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
43-year-old Feng Xu was arrested in May after police discovered he was operating a network of 446 properties across the UK which were leased from landlords and then sublet to criminal gangs to house cannabis farms, brothels and accommodation for illegal immigrants.
In October Xu pleaded guilty to 22 different offences including fraud and money laundering, but was sentenced on Friday.
The court heard how Xu operated a criminal sub-letting property empire on an industrial scale from his flat in central Birmingham.
The Chinese national, who arrived in the UK in 1996 as a student and had been living as an illegal immigrant since 2000, was found to have a stash of 31 false passports, numerous other fake ID documents and £94,000 in cash.
Investigators found that Xu had built up his empire by making many of the fake documents himself including payslips, utility bills and bank statements to persuade landlords that he was renting their property as a bonafide tenants with the ‘right to rent’.
During the three-and-a-half years his illegal business operated some £4 million as paid in rent to unsuspecting landlords.
The operation was uncovered after separate police forces raided cannabis farms and brothels and the same picture of Xu kept cropping up during investigations.
“In taking Xu out we will have caused significant disruption to a number of different organised crime groups involved in prostitution, people smuggling and drug production,” says Martin Grace, a branch commander at the NCA.