Dance Academy boss tells of 'unimaginable torment' in exclusive prison cell revelations
THE LAWYER of jailed Dance Academy boss has described his case as “the worst miscarriage of justice” she has ever seen.
Solicitor Jane Hickman, of Hickman and Rose, is fighting to quash Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh’s conviction and passed a file to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CRCC) in January last year.
Speaking exclusively to The Herald from his prison cell Bahmanzadeh said: “I have suffered unimaginable torment for the last five years.”
Bahmanzadeh was jailed for nine years in 2008 for allowing the supply of Class A drugs at the club.
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During his trial at Plymouth Crown Court, Bahmanzadeh repeatedly denied he had allowed Ecstasy to be sold in the Union Street venue, highlighting how he had even offered to pay for a uniformed police officer to stand outside the club to deter dealers.
Bahmanzadeh had also claimed Plymouth City Council had wanted to buy the Dance Academy from him for a number of years, suggesting that was why they closed the club down.
When he took the stand in his defence, he told the jury: “I cleaned up nightclubs in this city. I got rid of the gangs. I did it and did it all on my own.”
Ms Hickman said she was expecting a provisional decision very shortly from the CCRC.
She said: “I’ve been involved in law for nearly 40 years and this is one of the most remarkable cases I’ve ever come across. “Manoucehr’s case is the worst miscarriage of justice I’ve ever seen.”
Ms Hickman said she was “hugely hopeful” the CCRC would refer the case back to the Court of Appeal.
She claimed the police investigation was set in train by drug dealers who bitterly resented Bahmanzadeh’s efforts to keep them out of the Dance Academy
She accused the police of not carrying out sufficient investigation of who was behind the allegations against the club boss.
Ms Hickman said that among the paperwork passed to the CCRC was the suggestion that the initial undercover investigation by police was “inconclusive” and officers went back to drug dealers and “enlisted key witnesses who they knew or should have known were connected to the big drug cartels”.
The law firm, which has employed Freedom of Information requests to support Bahmanzadeh’s potential appeal, also believes the prosecution case exaggerated evidence such as the number of ambulances called to the club.
Ms Hickman said if the case is referred back to the Court of Appeal, Bahmanzadeh – who was ordered to hand over £1m following a Proceeds of Crime Act application – will argue the “police improperly allowed consideration of their potential confiscation gains to affect their judgement.”
Ms Hickman said: “We have found evidence which should have been disclosed at the time which we feel is key to Mr Bahmanzadeh’s defence.
“It is quite amazing that while officers were carrying out an undercover operation at the Dance Academy they were congratulating him for his robust stance on drug dealers.
“When put together, the evidence we have submitted to the CCRC should ensure the case is referred to the Court of Appeal and this appalling miscarriage of justice is exposed.”
Bahmanzadeh, speaking from his prison cell, told The Herald: “I stood up to the drug dealers from the major drug cartels for eight years until they got the help of the police in closing the Dance Academy.
“They destroyed my life’s work, to run a safe, happy and friendly environment for young people.
“The beautiful Palace Theatre has been allowed to fall into ruin.
“I have suffered unimaginable torment for the last five years.
“I am looking forward to the chance to establish the truth of what took place and to help make sure that no-one else in Plymouth suffers this kind of miscarriage of justice”.
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “We cannot comment at this time while the CCRC is still reaching its decision.”
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: “Devon and Cornwall Police are aware that Mr Bahmanzadeh has raised some issues around the investigation and that this is being looked at by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
“They have yet to make a decision on this review and so it would be inappropriate to comment on this matter at this time while they carry out their work.”