UK Authorities Dismantle Cash Carrier Criminal Ring

Опубликовано: 01 Май 2023

Money in a SuitcaseCash couriers have transferred millions of pounds between the U.K. and the UAE. (Photo: Jeremy Johnstone, Flickr, License)

A court in the United Kingdom has found four additional members of an organized crime network guilty of transporting large amounts of cash in suitcases from the U.K. to Dubai. The group laundered over 104 million pounds (US$130.65 million) in just a year.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) dismantled the “network of criminal cash couriers” and stated in a release that 11 of them, including the network’s leader Abdullah Alfalsi, have been convicted so far. Alfalsi was sentenced to more than nine years in prison last year.

“These couriers were important cogs in a large money laundering wheel,” said NCA Senior Investigating Officer Ian Truby.

The NCA, the UK Border Force, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities discovered that the network collected what is believed to be the proceeds of drug trade from criminal organizations throughout the U.K. The cash was brought to counting houses, primarily rented apartments in Central London.

There, the money was packed into vacuum-sealed bags and then travel bags, each weighing approximately 40 kilograms and containing around 500,000 pounds ($629,109). To avoid detection by Border Force detecting dogs, the bags were doused with coffee or air fresheners.

The couriers were paid approximately 3,000 pounds ($3,768) for each trip and given business class tickets to take advantage of the increased baggage capacity.

According to the NCA, the network communicated through a WhatsApp group called ‘Sunshine and Lollipops.’ One member was charged with escorting travelers to Heathrow and collecting the empty bags when they returned so they could be reused.

“The laundering of such vast quantities of cash around the globe enables organized criminals and corrupt elites to clean or hide their ill-gotten gains,” said Adrian Searle, Director of the National Economic Crime Center in the NCA.

He explained that cash smugglers typically work for international controller networks, which transfer money belonging to international drug traffickers, human traffickers, fraudsters, and other criminal organizations, making it impossible to identify the source of the cash.

“The criminality this enables costs the U.K. billions every year, causes misery, and ruins lives across the world,” Searle concluded.