Friday, 18 September 2009

15 taxi firms in Scotland are controlled by organised crime gangs Network Private Hire has been linked to the city's McGovern crime clan.

Mr MacAskill said: "Where organised crime infiltrates legitimate business, like the taxi and private hire trade, we will take action. We won't allow hard-working cabbies to be driven off the road by crooks and gangsters." Legislation was brought in this year to force taxi booking offices to obtain licences. Police checks of premises and records are being introduced. Mr MacAskill's pledge came only days after NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde was warned off giving a £2million taxi contract to Network Private Hire - which has been linked to the city's McGovern crime clan.
The firm was raided in 2004 as part of a money-laundering probe that could see McGovern in-law Russell Stirton lose £5million under proceeds of crime laws.
Last year Glasgow City Council suspended the licence of CS Cars, run by jailed crime boss Jamie "The Iceman" Stevenson's wife Caroline.Legislation introduced earlier this year will see taxi booking offices having to obtain licences for the first time. The police have also been given full powers to carry out checks of company premises and booking records.Although all cab drivers must secure a licence to take to the road, there has never been proper regulation of taxi operators and firms, which have been unveiled as fronts for money-laundering, drug-dealing and prostitution.Taxi industry leaders say the new measures will allow tough action to be taken against rogue private-hire drivers and companies that flout laws banning drivers picking up fares on the street or touting for business at ranks.Mr MacAskill said: "There has traditionally been much less control over private-hire firms than black-cab operators, which have generally served our cities well. Basically, anyone could set up a cab company from their front bedroom or garage and there was little that could be done to monitor them."He added that he wanted to send a "clear message" to organised criminals that there was no room in the industry for those who want to use taxi and private-hire car firms as a "front for illegal activities".
"We won't allow hard-working cabbies, who borrow from the bank to mortgage their home to buy a cab and make a living, to be driven off the road by crooks and gangsters," he said.It emerged earlier this year that police believe at least 15 taxi firms in Scotland are controlled by organised crime gangs.Private-hire businesses in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and beyond are said to have been infiltrated by underworld figures using cars to ferry drugs, prostitutes and enforcers. Frank Smith, Edinburgh's new taxi licensing inspector, said: "It is up to the police to work with the council to ensure the new regulations are enforced. I aim to ensure the existing high standards in the industry are maintained and, where opportunities arise, are improved upon."


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