UAE - The ringleader of a money laundering group that smuggled tens of millions of pounds of criminal cash from the United Kingdom to Dubai between November 2019 and October 2020 has been jailed for nine years, officials said on Thursday.
Abdullah Mohammed Ali Bin Beyat Alfalasi arranged the travel for a network of couriers, who between them smuggled £104 million from the UK to Dubai during the period. The 47-year-old was arrested by National Crime Agency (NCA) officers at a flat in Belgravia during a visit to the UK in December last year.
Four of Alfalasi’s couriers have already been convicted as part of the NCA’s operation, which has been supported by Border Force and the Dubai Police, and others remain under investigation.
The cash was believed to be profits from drug dealing, and the couriers would pack hundreds of thousands of pounds at a time into suitcases. They were each paid £3,000 - £8,000 per trip depending on how much cash they were smuggling.
Overall, the group took at least 10 per cent cut from the money smuggled, so between them are likely to have made in excess of £12 million from the venture. Alfalasi made multiple cash trips himself between Dubai and the UK, from November 2019 to March 2020, the officials added.
His name appeared on letters which were used to cover cash declarations made by the couriers. His phone number was also connected to their flight bookings. The network collected cash from criminal groups around the UK and took it to counting houses, usually rented apartments in Central London.
The wads of bank notes were then vacuum packed and separated into suitcases which would each contain around £500,000, weighing around 40 kilos. Each would be sprayed with coffee or air fresheners in an effort to prevent them being found by Border Force detection dogs. The couriers flew business class due to the extra luggage allowance.
NCA senior investigating officer Ian Truby said: “This money laundering network smuggled astronomical sums of money out of the UK, and is one of the largest we’ve ever investigated. Cash is the lifeblood of organised crime groups, which they re-invest into activities such as drug trafficking which fuels violence and insecurity around the world”.
He added: “Disrupting the supply of such illicit cash is a priority for the NCA and our partners. This investigation doesn’t stop here though, as we will continue to target cash couriers and hit crime groups where it hurts – in the pocket.”
Adrian Searle, Director of the NCA’s National Economic Crime Centre, added: “International money laundering networks such as this one can move hundreds of millions, if not billions, of pounds of dirty money around the globe annually. This money underpins the shadow economy and fuels serious criminality”.
“The NECC works with partners to dismantle money laundering networks, seize cash, and make it harder to launder money within and out of the UK. International partnerships are key. We strongly welcome the efforts made by UAE law enforcement, including Dubai Police, to assist our investigation and this builds on a landmark agreement to tackle illicit finance that the Home Secretary signed with the UAE last September.”
John Werhun of the Crown Prosecution Service said: “This is one of the largest money laundering cases the CPS has ever prosecuted to date. A colossal amount of dirty money, totalling £104million, was transported under Alfalasi’s instructions”.
“The evidence against Alfalasi was overwhelming, with invoices, declaration documents and images of cash-filled suitcases, pointing to his culpability,” he added.
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