The UK National Crime Agency has dismantled a network of criminal cash couriers that laundered more than £100m by smuggling it out of the UK to Dubai in the UAE.
Eleven of the couriers have now been convicted, following a guilty verdicts returned in the trial of Beatrice Auty, 26, from London; Jonathan Johnson, 55, and Jo Emma Larvin, 44, both from Ripon in North Yorkshire, and Amy Harrison, 27, from Worcester Park in Surrey, at Isleworth Crown Court.
Their network smuggled more than £104 million from the UK to Dubai during 83 separate trips between November 2019 and October 2020, overseen by ringleader Abdullah Alfalasi, 47, who was jailed for more than nine years in July last year.
Adrian Searle, Director of the National Economic Crime Centre in the NCA, said: “The laundering of such vast quantities of cash around the globe enables organised criminals and corrupt elites to clean or hide their ill-gotten gains.
From left to right: Beatrice Auty, Jonathan Johnson and Jo Emma Larvin
“Cash smugglers typically work on behalf of International Controller Networks, who move the finances of the international drug trade, people traffickers, fraudsters and other criminal groups, making the source of the money difficult to trace.
“The criminality this enables costs the UK billions every year, causes misery and ruins lives across the world.
The couriers, who were paid around £3,000 for each trip and would be booked on business class flights due to the extra luggage allowance, communicated on a Whatsapp group entitled ’Sunshine and lollipops’.
The network collected cash from criminal groups around the UK, which was believed to be the profits of drug dealing, and took it to counting houses, usually rented apartments in Central London.
The money was then vacuum packed and separated into suitcases which would typically each contain around £500,000, weighing around 40 kilos. They were sprayed with coffee or air fresheners in an effort to prevent them being found by Border Force detection dogs.
The NCA investigation has been supported by Border Force and the UAE authorities. A number of British couriers are under investigation in the UAE and cannot leave until inquiries have been completed by UAE law enforcement.
Source: NCA Publication