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An investigation conducted by the UK’s National Crime Agency led to the conviction of 11 couriers for conspiring to launder $124 million of cash to Dubai in suitcases, resulting in the largest money laundering scheme ever identified in the United Kingdom.
According to the National Crime Agency, a total of 11 couriers have been convicted along with the ringleader. A courier carried over 80 bags of drug money in less than a year and conspired to launder over £100 million ($124 Million). A WhatsApp group called ‘Sunshine and Lollipops’ was used to facilitate communication.
It was revealed in an investigation that the said couriers were sent on business class flights to make the most of the larger luggage allotment and check in closer to the flight departure.
Approximately £500,000 was packed into suitcases and loaded with coffee granules or air fresheners to mask the scent from sniffer dogs. Considering the difficulty of tracing criminal cash once it has been taken out of the country, British police have focused on London-to-Dubai laundering passages.
Since last March, the global financial crimes watchdog has placed the United Arab Emirates on a grey list for its inaction in uncovering illicit funds. The UAE has been scurtinised for a long time due due to its dirty money flows, and March marked the month when the global financial crimes monitoring authority, FATF, placed the country on a greylist.
On April 25th, 2023, Economy Minister Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri stated that approximately 58 of the UAE’s initial FATF concerns had been addressed. However, only 15 remain; they will be effectively and efficiently resolved with time. He is confident that the country will soon be taken off the list.
As a result of these measures, the country has ensured that checks and balances are implemented within its financial system, and it cooperates closely with the FATF to prevent fraud from occurring in the future.
The NCA reported that the cash allegedly to be from drug dealing, was collected from different crime gangs throughout the United Kingdom before being counted in London. It is estimated that couriers were paid approximately £3,000 per trip.
Truby, the NCA’s senior investigating officer, said, “The couriers were important cogs in a large money laundering wheel,” he further added, “The crime group they belonged to was responsible for smuggling eye-watering amounts of criminal cash out of the UK.”