Harrogate landlady Yoko Banks ordered to repay £140k after drug bust

A LANDLADY in North Yorkshire, who profited from renting out her properties to a gang of drug dealers, has been ordered to repay over £140,000 of illegally earned money.

Yoko Banks, 74, of Scargill Road, was jailed for three-and-a-half years in August 2021 after officers discovered large-scale cannabis production at properties she had rented out to an Albanian drugs gang.

A hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act was held at Leeds Crown Court on Friday January 6, when the court ordered Banks to repay £142,333 – the money she had made from the criminal activity.

Banks must repay the money within three months or face another 12 months in jail – and even then she will still be liable to repay the money, the court heard.

The Northern Echo: A picture from the crime scene in HarrogateA picture from the crime scene in Harrogate (Image: North Yorkshire Police)

Detective Inspector Janine Mitchell, head of Financial Investigation at North Yorkshire Police, said: “The Proceeds of Crime Act allows us to deprive criminals of their illegal income. We will take every opportunity to use the legislation to its capacity to ensure no-one benefits from crime.

“In this case Banks had knowingly rented out high-end Harrogate properties to the organised crime gang in return for thousands of pounds in rental income.

“If you suspect anyone of living off illegally earned income, do not hesitate to call the police. If you don’t want to talk to us, you can report it to Crimestoppers anonymously.”

In August 2021, North Yorkshire Police said the sentences followed a complex investigation after officers in Harrogate were called to a disturbance in Alexandra Road when vehicles left a trail of cannabis debris in the street.

Two of the vehicles involved, including one loaded with cannabis, were tracked heading south and was intercepted by Hertfordshire Police. A search of the vehicle resulted in officers seizing around £300,000 worth of cannabis.

At the same time, police officers in Harrogate searched a house in Alexandra Road that turned out to be owned by Yoko Banks. Inside they found an established cannabis grow along with equipment including an electrical wiring and security system.

A search of further properties owned by Banks revealed two more cannabis farms in Woodlands Road and Somerset Road. In total police seized cannabis with a street value of up to £240,000 from the three properties.

The houses had been rented out to a third party who then sub-let them to the organised crime gang, with Banks expecting to make thousands of pounds from the arrangement.

Anyone with information on drug dealing in their communities is asked to call North Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Always call 999 in an emergency or a crime is in progress, police officers said.

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