Six couriers have been sentenced for their role in a money laundering network that smuggled more than £100m out of the UK to the UAE following an investigation by the National Crime Agency.
In a significant victory against money laundering, six individuals have been sentenced for their involvement in a sophisticated network responsible for smuggling over £100 million out of the UK and into the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The convictions come after a thorough investigation conducted by the National Crime Agency (NCA), showcasing their commitment to combatting organized crime and its devastating effects.
Between November 2019 and October 2020, the money laundering network executed 83 separate trips to Dubai, overseen by ringleader Abdullah Alfalasi, who was sentenced to over nine years in jail in July last year. The couriers, who were compensated approximately £3,000 for each trip and flew business class to benefit from increased luggage allowances, used WhatsApp groups for communication, including one intriguingly named “Sunshine and lollipops.”
The network collected cash from criminal groups around the UK, which was mainly the profits of drug dealing, and took it to counting houses in Central London.
The money was then vacuum packed and separated into suitcases, which would typically each contain around £500,000. They were sprayed with coffee or air fresheners in an effort to prevent them being found by sniffer dogs.
The couriers were arrested following an investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Beatrice Auty, 27, from London; Jonathan Johnson, 55, and Jo Emma Larvin, 44, both from Ripon in North Yorkshire, and Amy Harrison, 28, from Worcester Park in Surrey, were convicted after a trial at Isleworth Crown Court on April 26 this year. They were joined by two other couriers from the same network, who had been convicted in earlier hearings and were sentenced alongside them on July 12.
Auty, who was arrested following NCA raids in May 2021, travelled the same route twice in July and August of that year, checking in seven suitcases containing £3.4 million.
Auty’s involvement extended beyond her own trips, as she facilitated logistical arrangements for 16 additional journeys. Her responsibilities included packing cash into suitcases, accompanying travelers to Heathrow, and collecting empty suitcases upon their return for reuse.
The investigation revealed that Tara Hanlon, convicted in June 2021, had briefed another courier about the operation. This courier undertook three trips from Heathrow to Dubai in August and September 2020, transporting a staggering £6.8 million in 18 suitcases. Auty, who was apprehended during NCA raids in May 2021, followed a similar route twice in July and August of the same year, carrying seven suitcases containing £3.4 million. Czech national Zdenek Kamaryt, convicted of money laundering in March 2021, accompanied Auty on the second trip.
Adrian Searle, Director of the National Economic Crime Centre in the NCA, said:
“The laundering of such vast quantities of cash around the globe enables organised criminals and corrupt elites to clean or hide their ill-gotten gains.
“Cash smugglers work on behalf of international controller networks, who move the finances of the international drug trade, people traffickers, fraudsters and other criminal groups.
“This case demonstrates the continued commitment to crackdown on money laundering and target organised crime groups who cause misery and ruin lives.”
NCA senior investigating officer Ian Truby said: “These couriers smuggled cash out of the UK on an industrial scale, at the behest of organised crime groups.
“They were prepared to travel out to the UAE for a holiday in the sun, in return for a cut of the profit.
“This case demonstrates the NCA’s commitment to targeting the criminal networks involved in money laundering.
“Profits are often re-invested into criminal activities such as drug trafficking. This fuels violence and insecurity in the UK and across the world, which is why our investigation continues.”
The couriers who were sentenced today were:
- Beatrice Auty, 27, from London, sentenced to 42 months imprisonment
- Jonathan Johnson, 55, from Ripon in North Yorkshire, sentenced to 12 months suspended for two years
- Jo Emma Larvin, 44, from Ripon, sentenced to 24 months suspended for two years
- Amy Harrison, 28, from Worcester Park in Surrey, sentenced to 24 months suspended for two years
- Nicola Esson, 56, from Leeds, sentenced to 22 months suspended for two years
- Muhammad Ilyas, 30, from Slough, sentenced to 15 months suspended for two years
The NCA investigation has been supported by Border Force and the UAE authorities. A number of British couriers are under investigation in the UAE, and cannot leave until inquiries have been completed.