For more than nine years, the ringleader of a gang which smuggled more than PS100m cash to Dubai for criminals in the UK was jailed.
Abdulla Mohammad Ali Bin Beyat Alfalasi enlisted dozens of people who flew suitcases filled with cash from the UK between April 2019 – November 2019.
After pleading guilty to the removal of criminal property, the father-of-6 was sentenced to nine years and seven month imprisonment
The National Crime Agency described the operation as the largest money-laundering ring in the country and illegally transferred PS104m.
For 83 trips, the 47-year old would pay his mules between PP3,000 and PP8,000. This was a money-laundering service that served dozens of drug gangs in the UK.
Each suitcase could contain as much as PS500,000, and it would include coffee grounds and air fresheners in an attempt to fool sniffer dogs.
Alfalasi would also pay the couriers to fly in business class to maximize the allowance for baggage.
They would use Omnivest Gold Trading, a company established by Alfalasi to cover cash declarations once they arrived in Dubai. Then they would return to the UK empty-handed days later.
The money would then convert into dirhams. Some of the dirhams could be used to purchase gold in Africa, or cryptocurrency before being released to customers in the UK.
How did the smuggling ring get broken?
When Tara Hanlon (a 31-year-old recruitment consultant) was stopped at Heathrow Airport with luggage containing PS1.9m vacuum-packed bags, the operation was finally discovered.
A month later, Zdenek Kamaryt (Czech national), 39, was detained as he attempted to board a Heathrow-Dubai flight with PS1.3m cash in his bag.
Hanlon was sentenced last year to 34 months in prison for money-laundering offenses relating to more that PS5m. Kamaryt was sentenced 26 months after pleading guilty to the same money-laundering charges.
Alfalasi was a PS6m-carrying member of his network before he began to recruit.
He enlisted Michelle Clarke, a British lady he met in Dubai to help him recruit 36 people to take part in the trips.
One, Nicola Esson (55), from Leeds, brought 19 suitcases with her on three trips in August and September 2020. She declared a total value of PS6.4m.
Muhammed Geyas IIlyas, a Slough resident, was able to take PS2.5m in two separate trips. He was then arrested on a flight back from Heathrow in February 2020, after Border Force officers discovered a bag with PS431,000 cash that had been left behind at the airport.
Both have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Clarke, however, is believed to still be in Dubai. Clarke is being sought by the National Crime Agency.
Phones, Photos and Credit Cards
Alfalasi was taken into custody at the flat of his wealthy wife in Belgravia in central London in December 2013.
Officers found three phones with messages between him, others, discussing the collection, consolidation, and movement of cash.
Also included were photos of cash-filled suitcases, a readout from a money counting machine, and an itinerary for one courier’s trip. Alfalasi checked in at each stage to make sure the money got to Dubai safely.
Also, credit cards that were used to purchase the flight tickets were recovered.
Subscribe to the Daily Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. Spotify, Spreaker, Spotify.
“Cash is the lifeblood for organised crime”
According to the NCA, the “international controller network” was at the top of global money-laundering. It is “one of its largest” cases.
Ian Truby, senior investigating officer, stated that cash is vital to organised crime groups. They reinvest it in activities like drug trafficking which fuels violence and instability around the globe.
“Disrupting illicit cash supply is a priority for both the NCA as well as our partners.
“The investigation continues and we will do everything we can to bring more offenders to justice.”