The National Crime Agency has obtained a civil recovery order for gold worth an estimated £4 million that was being laundered by South American drug cartels.
NCA financial investigators took up the case after the shipment of gold weighing 104 kilos was seized at Heathrow in June 2019.
The gold was in the cargo section of a plane which had arrived from the Cayman Islands.
It was being transported from the Caymans to Switzerland via Heathrow, having earlier been shipped to the Caymans on a private jet which had arrived from Venezuela.
NCA officers worked closely with authorities in the Cayman Islands to prove a false paperwork trail had been created to hide the true origin of the gold as Venezuela, and that those involved in the organisation and physical movement of the gold had links to organised crime.
Following settlement discussions and an application to the High Court, the NCA obtained a civil recovery order over 80 per cent of the gold under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The remaining 20 per cent will be returned to companies with a financial interest in the gold.
NCA Branch Commander Andy Noyes said: “Criminals are attracted to gold as a way of moving drugs money due to the high value contained in relatively small amounts.
“Our investigation showed this shipment was linked to drug cartels operating out of South America, but we were able to stop it reaching its final destination thanks to established links with overseas partners.
“This intervention has disrupted the criminal network, stopping them from reinvesting in further criminality that causes harm to our communities.”
21 March 2023