Ten Arrested in London for Hauling Millions in Suitcases into UAE

Ten people have been arrested on suspicion of smuggling more than £15.5 million (US$20 million) out of the United Kingdom into Dubai, hidden in suitcases over the past three years, British authorities say.

Police seized money hidden inside suitcases bound for Dubai. (National Crime Agency)Police seized money hidden inside suitcases bound for Dubai. (National Crime Agency)The U.K.’s National Crime Agency (NCA) says that the suspects are all members of an organized crime group and that they wanted to drug and human trafficking proceeds in the UAE. 

“Cash is the lifeblood of organized crime groups and they need the services of money launderers,” NCA senior investigating officer Chris Hall said in a release.

“We believe that the action we and our partners have taken will have caused permanent damage to a well-established money laundering network.”

The suspects were nabbed inraids across the country, with the 41-year-old ringleader arrested at his home in Hayes, in west London.

Authorities also seized cash, drugs and luxury cars ranging from BMWs to Range Rovers.

Officials believe the group was also behind an attempt to smuggle 17 migrants into the UK this summer.

The arrests come in the wake of an earlier NCA investigation into the group, which seized £1.5 million ($1.94 million) bound for Dubai.

The United Arab Emirates has increasingly come under scrutiny for its role in laundering money for criminals. Earlier this week, a British MP told a South African corruption inquiry about the lengths that UAE banks would go to help people clean up ill-gotten gains.

“Dubai’s regulations are notoriously lax and light, and that is why this sort of money goes through Dubai and other places,” Lord Peter Hain told South Africa’s Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.

Last year, OCCRP reported on how Dubai’s secretive offshore financial system found itself at the center of a series of corruption scandals.

“Dubai basically would not be as developed as it is right now if it didn’t allow all the illicit money to end up there,” Sayed Ikram Afzali, the executive director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, an organization that has helped document Afghanistan’s massive capital outflows to the emirate, told OCCRP at the time.