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Home Breaking The ringleader of a money laundering group which smuggled tens of millions of pounds of criminal cash out of the UK has been jailed for nine years.

The ringleader of a money laundering group which smuggled tens of millions of pounds of criminal cash out of the UK has been jailed for nine years.

 

 

Abdullah Mohammed Ali Bin Beyat Alfalasi arranged for a network of couriers to transport £104 million from the United Kingdom to Dubai between November 2019 and October 2020.

During a visit to the UK in December last year, the 47-year-old Emirati national was arrested by National Crime Agency officers at a flat in Belgravia.

Four of Alfalasi’s couriers have already been convicted as part of the NCA’s operation, which was assisted by Border Force and Dubai Police, and others are still being investigated.

The money was thought to be profits from drug dealing, and the couriers would pack hundreds of thousands of pounds into suitcases at a time. They were paid between £3,000 and £8,000 per trip, depending on how much cash they smuggled.

Overall, the group took at least a 10% cut of the money smuggled, so they are likely to have made more than £12 million from the venture.

From November 2019 to March 2020, Alfalasi made multiple cash trips between Dubai and the United Kingdom.

His name appeared on letters bearing the name Omnivest Gold Trading LLC, which were used to cover courier cash declarations. His phone number was also linked to their flight reservations.

The network gathered cash from criminal groups across the UK and delivered it to counting houses, which were typically rented apartments in Central London.

The wads of bank notes were then vacuum packed and separated into suitcases, each containing approximately £500,000 and weighing approximately 40 kilos. Each would be sprayed with coffee or air fresheners to avoid being discovered by Border Force detection dogs.

Because of the extra luggage allowance, the couriers flew business class.

This money laundering network smuggled astronomical sums of money out of the UK, and is one of the largest we’ve ever investigated,” said NCA senior investigating officer Ian Truby.

Cash is the lifeblood of organised crime groups, which they reinvest in activities such as drug trafficking, which fuels global violence and insecurity.

“The NCA and our partners prioritise disrupting the supply of such illicit cash.”

“However, this investigation will not end here; we will continue to target cash couriers and hit crime groups where it hurts – in the pocket.”

Every year, international money laundering networks move billions of pounds of dirty money through cash smuggling, cryptocurrencies, and banking systems.

This money can come from the drug trade, fraud, or other illegal commodities, and it can even be linked to terrorism and conflicts around the world.

Adrian Searle, Director of the National Economic Crime Centre at the NCA, stated:

“Every year, international money laundering networks like this one move hundreds of millions, if not billions, of pounds of dirty money around the world.” This money serves as the foundation of the shadow economy and fuels serious criminality.

“The NECC collaborates with partners to disrupt money laundering networks, seize cash, and make it more difficult to launder money in and out of the UK.”

“International collaboration is critical.” We appreciate the efforts made by UAE law enforcement, including Dubai Police, to assist our investigation, which builds on a landmark agreement signed by the Home Secretary with the UAE last September to combat illicit finance.”

Christina Brown, Director of the Border Force’s National Operational Headquarters, stated:

“Restricting the export of undeclared cash from the United Kingdom is critical in our fight against organised criminal gangs.”

“These convictions are the result of Border Force and the NCA’s hard work and dedication to combating dirty money that funds corruption and destroys lives.”

“Those involved should be proud of their work, especially the officers who intercepted and apprehended these despicable individuals.”

This is one of the largest money laundering cases the CPS has ever prosecuted,” said John Werhun of the CPS.

“A massive amount of dirty money, totaling £104 million, was transported to Dubai on Alfalasi’s orders.”

“The evidence against Alfalasi was overwhelming, with invoices, declaration documents, and images of cash-filled suitcases implicating him.”

Alfalasi’s couriers included 55-year-old Nicola Esson of Leeds, who was apprehended in May 2021 following NCA raids, and 29-year-old Muhammad Ilyas of Slough, who was apprehended in February 2020.

Esson flew from Heathrow to Dubai three times in August and September 2020, checking in 19 suitcases totaling nearly half a tonne. She returned a few days later with the same luggage items, which weighed much less each time.

Ilyas was apprehended by NCA officers at Heathrow Airport after arriving from Dubai on a flight. He had checked in four suitcases ten days earlier, one of which had gone missing, and declared nearly £1.5 million in cash to Dubai Customs. Border Force officers discovered the missing suitcase, which contained £431,360 in cash.

On 18 May, 27 May, and 27 June, Esson, Ilyas, and Alfalasi pleaded guilty to money laundering charges at Isleworth Crown Court. Alfalasi was sentenced today (28 July) in the same court, with the remaining two scheduled to be sentenced at a later date.

Two other couriers linked to the same network have already been imprisoned as a result of NCA investigations.

Tara Hanlon, 31, of Leeds, was detained at Heathrow by Border Force in October 2020 as she attempted to flee the country with suitcases containing nearly £2 million. She later admitted smuggling an additional £3.5 million out of the UK on other trips and was sentenced to 34 months in prison in July 2021.

Zdenek Kamaryt, a Czech national, was also stopped at Heathrow in November 2020. He was attempting to board a flight carrying £1.4 million to Dubai. In March of last year, Kamaryt pleaded guilty to three counts of money laundering and was sentenced to 34 months in prison.

Project PLUTUS brings together experts from across UK law enforcement, regulatory agencies, and the Government to make it more difficult for organised criminals in the UK to launder the proceeds of crime. Money launderers who are used by criminal organisations are targeted as part of the project through enforcement action, cash seizures, closing vulnerabilities, and combating the methods used.

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