Birmingham mobster Michael Michael once headed up a notorious criminal empire, known as The Organisation, but turned into a Scotland Yard informant and ratted out his associates during the 1990s
A former drug lord turned grass whose information helped take down dozens of ruthless gangsters has a £4million price on his head.
Birmingham mobster Michael Michael ran a criminal empire called The Organisation that operated throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s.
After turning informant, the crime lords affected put a hefty multi-million pound price on Michael’s head, Birmingham Live reports.
Now under witness protection, Michael lives in a world where he must check over his shoulder, and remain vigilant wherever he goes.
On one occasion, customs officers asked him to write a list of crime chiefs likely to seek revenge.
Among the 14 names was “criminal superstar” Mickey “Pimpernel” Green – who gangland sources allege was the main suspect in the murder of two London crime figures.
Michael earned his £107million fortune through drugs, money laundering and back-alley massage parlours.
Scotland Yard cops knew him as Andrew Ridgeley – a code name derived from George Michael’s co-artist in pop supergroup Wham!
He is almost certainly no longer Michael Michael. He is probably no longer in the UK. But it is intriguing to consider the silver haired, unassuming gent you spotted at the supermarket checkout may be the former mob boss.
Michael, who allegedly had links with Colombian cocaine cartels, the IRA and Chicago mafia, had good reason to become an entirely different person.
He was Britain’s most highly-rated police informant, passing gold-plated details to MI5, Customs, the Inland Revenue and Police.
And his network of contacts stretched to the very top of criminal hierarchy. Solihull’s John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer, a gangster killed in a 2015 professional hit, was rumoured to be an associate.
One senior officer in the Regional Crime Squad remarked: “(Michael was) one of the best, if not the best, informants ever, providing information against arguably some of the most notorious British criminals.”
That information led to 49 arrests, 34 convictions and the dismantling of 26 drugs gangs. It also led to the seizure of £49 million-worth of drugs.
Those he shopped included his common law wife, brother and mistress. The incredible story of Michael Michael – born Constantine Michael Michael to Birmingham Greek-Cypriots and trained in accountancy – is the stuff of big screen blockbusters and paperback best sellers.
It encompasses hardcore criminality, money, violence, subterfuge and glamour. The bedrock of his vast wealth was money-laundering – the gangster would collect cash for smuggled drugs spirited into this country by motors with adapted fuel tanks and even a tour coach dubbed The Fun Bus.
He then sent the money abroad to purchase more narcotics.
To avoid the cash trail being uncovered, he was advised to “recruit a bunch of pretty girls but not tell them what was going on”.
Michael duly signed up a bevy of beauties as couriers, each one oblivious to the amounts they were carrying – or the illicit deals their boss was making.
He specialised in high currency foreign notes – a single 1,000 Dutch guilder was worth £300, so the packets could be wafer thin.
The glamorous couriers, paid £800 a trip, had no idea they were ferrying small fortunes, mostly to Spain
Among them was former Page 3 girl Tracy Kirby who believed she was working for a family run bureau de change. She spent two years in Holloway Prison before the drug charges were dropped in 2000.
Tracy was another unwitting victim of Michael and wrote a book about the experience, The Model Prisoner.
In 2003, she told Guardian reporter Tony Thompson: “I was in bed when the police burst into the house and marched into my bedroom. I remember watching them all come in, trying to keep count and being amazed there were so many of them.
The nearest one pulled out an identity card and flashed it at me. ‘I am an officer of Customs and Excise and I am arresting you for conspiracy to smuggle Class A drugs’. I couldn’t help myself, I burst out laughing. All I could think was, ‘you bunch of prats, you’ve gone and raided the wrong bloody house’.”
Michael was a man wrestling with cocaine addiction and the powder made him sloppy. The pressure of living a double life as a leading figure in organised crime and an informant pushed him close to the edge.
Those two lead-heavy secrets proved a toxic, volatile cocktail.
Coke also gave Michael a false sense of bravado. It made him unstable and the mood swings were further fuelled by his crumbling relationship with partner Lynn.
One courier recalled a heated domestic: “‘He suddenly went berserk, shouting and screaming. I knew he and Lynn weren’t getting on very well, and I thought it was because of them.
“‘He was saying, ‘she’s no good, I’m gonna keep the kids and I’ll get rid of her’. I thought he was talking about divorce, but then he started saying, ‘I’ll have her shot, I’ve got no choice. If I don’t do it, she’ll grass me up’. He had completely lost it and all I could think was, grass him up over what?”
Michael believed the details he presented to the authorities would make his own criminal enterprises untouchable. That was his mistake.
He was not.
Customs officers – oblivious to the links between their suspect and police – had staked out a warehouse in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, and monitored drugs caches being unloaded from vehicles.
On April 25, they made their move, swooping on Michael’s £740,000 country pile in Radlett. High and paranoid on coke, Michael believed he was being robbed and pointed a shotgun at the first man to burst through his door. He dropped the weapon when the “intruder” revealed his identity.
In the £1 million mansion, Customs discovered £800,000 in cash and documents that revealed between 1994 and 1998, a total of 110 kilos of cocaine and 19,000 kilos of cannabis had been smuggled into Britain.
When Customs realised the staggering financial scale of Michael’s criminal activities, all deals were off.
When Michael realised all deals were off he talked and talked some more. His motivation is believed to have been an attempt to preserve the massage parlours that turned over £250,000 profits each year.
The state could not turn a blind eye to what was, effectively, a burgeoning underworld empire.
At Woolwich Crown Court in December 2001, Michael admitted conspiracy to import cocaine, a similar charge involving cannabis and three conspiracies to launder the proceeds. He also pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm.
The total worth of the drugs involved was £130 million.
Judge Michael Carroll said: “These conspiracies involve drugs of such quantity and value that the figures mentioned in court beggar belief.”
Michael faced decades behind bars. He was sentenced to six, but released hours after the court case due to the time he’d spent on remand.
Worse than the jail time, was the decision to lift reporting restrictions – in place for three years – that prevented details of Michael’s undercover work being published.
The measures taken to safeguard the supergrass underline the threat he was living under.
Machine-gun toting police officers stood guard at Woolwich Court. On the segregation wing at Belmarsh maximum security prison, each meal was tested for poison.
The Birmingham Mr Big would forever be a haunted man. His time at the top had certainly come to an end. Before the fall, Michael had enjoyed a champagne life-style.
Two decades ago, the Guardian revealed the glitzy bash staged for his 40th birthday.
The paper reported: “It was a lavish affair, even by the opulent standards of London’s Dorchester Hotel. Celebrating his 40th birthday with seemingly endless supplies of vintage champagne and fine wines, Constantine Michael Michael was toasted by about 50 guests, who wished him health and happiness.
“The highlight was the unveiling of a cake made to reflect Michael’s lifestyle. Alongside a bright red ‘40’ were icing-sugar copies of the three mobile phones he always carried, his silver Porsche, the stacks of £50 notes that bulged in his wallet and the Silk Cut cigarettes he constantly smoked.”
One party-goer said: “Michael loved it, and we all thought it was a great joke at the time, but with hindsight you feel a bit stupid for not having worked out what was really going on.”
It was something of an open secret that he and common-law wife Lynn were raking it in from the seedy saunas and massage parlours.
Publicly he ran the thriving, bureau de change business that dealt in large sums of foreign currency. Only those very close to the mobster knew of his links with drug cartels abroad.
And not even Lynn knew of the tip-off service he provided to the authorities.
Daily Mirror crime writer Jeff Edwards succinctly summed up Michael’s lot following his Woolwich court case:
“Michael, 43, will now be celebrating Christmas abroad, at a secret location and with a new identity.
“Wife Lynn, given a suspended jail term after also helping the authorities, will “disappear” with him. They have two sons, aged nine and 12.
“Wherever Michael is, he will be looking over his shoulder. Gangland chiefs were already offering more than £1 million to have him ‘whacked’ before he could testify.”
Those words were echoed by Judge Carroll who described Michael as a “marked man” and the risk to his safety would remain “indefinitely”