Bakers Basco has been awarded over £47k in legal costs and expenses after working with police to uncover a criminal operation in the West Midlands that was illegally turning its bread trays and wheeled dollies into plastic chipping.
Suspicious activity was first suspected at Bisma Storage & Recovery in West Bromwich back in October 2021, when Bakers Basco was alerted by GPS tracking units embedded in its bakery delivery equipment that stolen units were being stockpiled at the site. The police were notified of the thefts and further evidence was secured via surveillance of the locked premises.
An anonymous call made to Bakers Basco one month later further alleged that its equipment was being unlawfully chipped for profit, with illegal firearms said to be on the site – necessitating the need for police involvement.
Bakers Basco’s investigations team gained access to the commercial premises under a search warrant on 12 November 2021, finding 310 sets of wheeled dollies and 198 baskets (with a combined value of close to £10,000) waiting to be chipped. A significant quantity of stolen equipment remained on site, beyond re-use and repair, with as many as 7,500 trays and 40 dollies estimated to have been already processed.
At a recent county court judgement, first defendant Mr Jahangir Hussain denied all knowledge of the illegal chipping operation. He asserted that his daughter, the second defendant Ms Zaina Hussain, and prospective son-in-law Mr Ansari, who had both fled the country and remained at large, were solely responsible for the crimes committed.
After considering all evidence, District Judge Griffiths took the view that Ms Zaina Hussain was solely responsible for the illegal chipping operation, and stated: “it is clear that I have been satisfied that the second defendant has operated an illegal plastic recycling operation on a fairly large scale to the detriment of the Claimant… I am concerned she may continue to operate at a different location and therefore, it is appropriate for an order to be made delivering up possession of the Claimant’s equipment.”
As a result of the judgement, Bakers Basco was awarded £47,591.86 in legal costs and expenses, as well as special and general damages for its stolen equipment, to be paid by the defendant. An injunction was also awarded, restraining Ms Zaina Hussain for an indefinite period from having any dealings with Bakers Basco’s equipment and an ongoing duty to deliver up any of Bakers Basco’s equipment coming into her possession in the future.
Bakers Basco is a membership scheme – set up by Allied Bakeries, Fine Lady Bakeries, Frank Roberts & Sons, Hovis, and Warburtons in 2006 – which currently provides and manages an equipment pool of around five million reusable Omega Baskets and 500,000 dollies to bakery manufacturers nationwide. Earlier this year, it signed a three-year contract with plastic injection moulding firm Couterplas to produce more than half a million baskets annually. Illegal online sales of its equipment remains a big issue, with a dedicated team set up in August to help crack down.
Bakers Basco said the above case was just one of around 450 formal legal cases that have been initiated as a consequence of its investigations. Many of these legal cases have resulted in securing restraining injunctions against third parties to ensure no further losses can be suffered from those defendants going forward. On top of this, thousands of cases have been resolved directly, when seeking to re-educate third parties on their unlawful conversion and interference with its plastic logistics equipment.
“This case helps raise awareness with the public and other businesses that the theft and destruction of our equipment is not a victimless crime,” said Bakers Basco national investigations manager Stacey Brown, who previously detailed an account of activities and challenges from an average day.
She added that it can interrupt the supply chain, delivering bread goods to supermarkets and ultimately the consumer – and can have an impact on the price of a loaf of bread in stores. “I hope this case will serve to act as a deterrent to those parties who are tempted to engage in such illegal activity,” continued Brown, noting that equipment was designed to have an eight-year life cycle.
“If equipment is stolen, misappropriated and/or destroyed, it creates an unnecessary, avoidable carbon footprint to remedy the situation. Fresh plastic has to be sourced, the replacement bread trays and wheeled dollies manufactured and then re-integrated into the distribution network. That is wholly avoidable if offending third parties simply behaved themselves,” concluded Brown.