A man who masterminded a £5m illegal body-building drugs importing business from his Leeds home has been jailed for seven years.
Nicholas Aristotelous, 39, spent vast sums importing human growth hormones, steroids and other class C drugs including viagra from the Far East in a “well organised conspiracy”.
The five-year operation is estimated to have had a turnover of £5m and netted a profit of around £2.9m.
A court heard yesterday of the severe dangers associated with the drugs Aristotelous dealt in. Side effects can include major heart problems, cancer, blindness and blood disorders.
Aristotelous, of Roker Lane, Pudsey, was the central figure in the conspiracy which included five other men.
Money was transferred primarily to China to buy thedrugs as well as other prescription-only and unlicensed medicines including Kamagra – a fake version of Viagra.
He negotiated prices, controlled drug orders and managed the despatch of the drugs to UK addresses.
A range of different delivery addresses were used in a bid to avoid rousing the suspicions of the authorities.
Aristotelous ran websites to supply the drugs worldwide and also sold them locally through contacts. It appeared his ambition was to become a leading global supplier.
He had plans to expand his network to Canada and Mexico.
After his arrest Aristotelous admitted his dealings enabled him to live the high life. He travelled everywhere first class by train and by air, stayed in the best international hotels and ate in the finest restaurants, where he enjoyed VIP status.
He also set up Swiss bank accounts for his business use.
When his home was raided £18,000 cash was found. He also told authorities that he hid £50,000 in his garden to avoid tax.
Aristotelous pleading guilty to money laundering and conspiracy to fraudulently evade the prohibition on the importation of controlled Class C drugs.
He also admitted a further offence of possession with intent to supply Class C drugs. This related to 193,000 Diazepam
tablets found at his home.
Sean Smith, for Aristotelous, said he spotted his business opportunity in 2004 after he had flunked out of university and was almost bankrupt.
He initially thought his activities would be legal after going into partnership with a man he met at the gym where he trained.
The pair flew to China where they were introduced to professors who claimed to have supplied supplements to the Chinese Olympic team at the Beijing Olympics.
He continued to operate despite knowing what he was doing was illegal. Mr Smith said but “snowball had begun to roll” and he needed to provide for his family.
Ben Womack, 33, was jailed for four years for the conspiracy and money laundering.
Womack, of New Street, Broadbottom, Hyde, Cheshire, helped Aristotelous continue his illegal business after his home in Leeds had been raided and he was released on police bail.
Between them they had transferred more than £800,000 out of the country using Womack’s dying grandfather’s bank account.
Andrew Abbott, 44, of Daleside Road, Pudsey, was jailed for 18 months after a being found guilty of the conspiracy and money laundering earlier this year.
Robert Scott, 43, of Cramner Bank, Moortown, was given a 12 month suspended sentence and 240 hours unpaid work after pleading guilty to the conspiracy and money laundering.
Paul Crabb, of Pavilion Gardens, Pudsey, given a six month suspended sentence and 200 hours unpaid work after being found guilty of money laundering.
Abbott, Scott and Crabb were described as “foot soldiers” in the operation by helping to transfer money back to the far east or collect drugs from mail boxes in the UK.
Another man is still to be sentenced in connection with the operation at a later date.
A BUSINESSMAN lived the high life running an illegal international operation importing millions of pounds’ worth of human growth hormones and steroids into the UK , mainly for the bodybuilding market, a court heard.
Over a five-year period from 2004 it was estimated the turnover of the operation run by Nicholas Aristotelous and others was around £5m.
“The profit from the enterprise is therefore in the region of £2.9m,” Peter Moulson prosecuting told Leeds Crown Court yesterday.
Aristotelous travelled first class by plane and air, staying in the best hotels and eating in the finest restaurants.
None of those involved were authorised or registered with the General Medical Council or relevant pharmacological bodies to import or sell any of the products involved, which also included Viagara-type drugs.
Mr Moulson said that according to the UK Medicines Control Agency the dangers associated with their unlicensed and unregulated distribution included serious side effects in the case of the prescription-only drug Kamagra that could include angina, heart attack and possible blindness.
Another drug involved, Tamoxifen, could cause blood disorder and life threatening illnesses such as pancreatitis, thrombo-embolism and cancer.
“It in common with the other Class C drugs must only be used under close supervision by specialist physicians,” Mr Moulson said.
Aristotelous, 40, of Roker Lane, Pudsey, Leeds, was jailed for seven years after admitting conspiracy to contravene customs restrictions, possessing drugs with intent and transferring criminal property.
Judge Christopher Batty told him “What you were dealing in was potentially lethal drugs, you had no idea where they were going or who would be taking them.”
Mr Moulson said in 2008 inquiries revealed large sums were being transferred from the UK to countries including India, China and Pakistan, for steroids, human growth hormones and other class C drugs, packages then being sent to mailboxes in the north of England.
It turned out that Aristotelous ran several of the companies involved sending orders via e-mail.
He had transferred more than £570,000 in cash to those suppliers and on occasions also travelled abroad himself to hand funds over.
He had mailing addresses set up in Leeds, Wakefield, Bradford, York, Manchester and Sheffield and later in the conspiracy recruited a number of “foot soldiers” to handle the transfers or receive packages.
When arrested in 2008 a total of 193,662 tablets were seized from his home with bottles stamped Multivitamin. They turned out to be class C Diazepam.
Following his arrest he continued with his enterprise, recruiting Ben Womack and establishing more mailbox addresses in blatant disregard of the law as Womack transferred more than £800,000.
Womack, 33, of New Street, Broadbottom, Hyde, Cheshire was jailed for four years after he admitted the conspiracy, transferring criminal property and being concerned in the supply of an anabolic steroid Methandionene.
Andrew Abbott, 45 of Daleside Road, Pudsey, was jailed for 18 months after a jury convicted him of the conspiracy and transferring criminal property.
Robert Scott, 43 of Cranmer Bank, Moortown, Leeds, was jailed for 12 months, suspended for 18 months, with 240 hours unpaid work, after he admitted conspiracy and transferring criminal property.
Paul Crabb, 36, of Pavilion Gardens, Farsley, Leeds who was convicted by a jury of transferring criminal property, was given six months in jail suspended for 18 months with 200 hours unpaid work.