A DRUGS gang involved in a multi-million pound racket which was run from a prison cell will have to pay back just a fraction of their ill-gotten gains, it has emerged.
Yet, police last night hailed the success of getting Proceeds of Crime Act orders against the members - so they can go after them again should they have any future assets.
Four of the men had their cases heard at Teesside Crown Court where it was agreed by barristers that their benefit from the illegal trade was more than £110,000.
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But between them, they will have to pay back a little over £5,000 after the court heard that figure amounts to their joint available assets - including one who has just £1.
Cleveland Police said the importance of getting the POCA rulings against the gang members revolves around their ability to grab more money should they get it later.
Ten men were jailed for a total of 81 years following a trial last year - which included a sixteen-and-a-half years for mastermind Majid Khan, 30, from Middlesbrough.
He used his car wash business as a front for a multi-million pound plot to flood the North-East with cannabis and heroin, said prosecutor Nicholas Campbell, QC.
Incredibly, one of the men behind the nationwide scheme, Imran Bashir, 36, from Greater Manchester, was already serving a 14-year sentence in jail for another drugs plot.
Khan's right-hand man, Mohammed Akram, 26, from Middlesbrough, described by the judge as a "trusted second in command", received ten years and four months.
Akram's Proceeds of Crime Act determination was adjourned and Majid Khan's case is listed to be mentioned in front of Judge Howard Crowson in November.
Majid Hussain, 38, the main player from the Bedfordshire end of the plot and jailed for nine years, was ruled to have made £39,675 from crime but his assets are £1,568.
Asif Hussain, 30, from Middlesbrough, another "trusted lieutenant" of Majid Khan was jailed for eight years. His benefit was £60,619 and has assets of just £700.
Qadir Rasaq, 27, from Middlesbrough, got nine years for his part in the huge conspiracy. He was said to have made £68,146 but has just £3,363 available.
Tobias Williamson, 21, said to be a gopher for a street dealer, was jailed for three years and seven months, but will pay bak just £1 of the £3,602 he raked in.
Judge Crowson described the gang as well-organised and determined and said: "This trade brings misery to users and, perhaps more importantly, victims of crime."
The well-briefed members regularly changed their pay-as-you-go mobile phones and used taxis rather than their own cars to move about, said Mr Campbell.
Judge Crowson said the cross-country the plot was a "persistent and professional determined, commercial enterprise" and said: "This was a substantial trade."