Three members of a criminal network that smuggled more than £100m in illicit cash from the UK to the UAE have been found guilty of money laundering offences – bringing the total number convicted of involvement in the conspiracy to 14.
Following a National Crime Agency investigation, guilty verdicts were returned today at Isleworth Crown Court for Samantha Horst, 51, from Staines-upon-Thames, Craig Bramall, 42, from Wigan and Bridget Taylor, 43, from Edinburgh.
They were part of a network which smuggled more than £104 million in suitcases during 83 separate London to Dubai trips between November 2019 and October 2020.
The criminal conspiracy was overseen by ringleader Abdullah Alfalasi, 48, who was jailed for more than nine years in July last year.
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 hide their illegally-obtained wealth.
“Cash smugglers typically work on behalf of international controllers, who move the money generated by the international drug trade, people traffickers, fraudsters and other criminal groups, all with the intention of making the illicit source of the money difficult to trace.
“The criminality this enables costs the UK billions every year, causes misery and ruins lives across the world.
“This case demonstrates the NCA’s commitment to tackling money laundering, and preventing serious criminals from profiting from their activities.”
The couriers, who were paid around £3,000 for each trip and would be booked on business class flights due to the extra luggage allowance, communicated on a number of WhatsApp groups including one entitled ’Sunshine and lollipops’.
Horst, who was arrested following NCA raids in May 2021, made three trips to Dubai between August and September 2020, checking in 18 suitcases containing £6.8 million.
Taylor made the journey with a co-traveller in September 2020, taking five suitcases containing £2 million.
She also transported £1.3 million in three suitcases in July of that year.
Bramall removed an estimated £1.3 million in three suitcases during the one trip he made in September 2020.
The network collected cash from criminal groups around the UK, which was believed to be the profits of drug dealing, and took it to counting houses, usually rented apartments in Central London.
The money was then vacuum packed and separated into suitcases which would typically each contain around £500,000, weighing around 40 kilos. They were sprayed with coffee or air fresheners in an effort to prevent them being found by Border Force detection dogs.
NCA senior investigating officer Ian Truby said: “This has been one of the most significant NCA investigations of recent years, and today’s convictions are another reminder of the vast sums of money involved.
“With these latest convictions, we have further dismantled a prolific and extensive criminal network, which is the NCA’s intention for every crime group we target.”
Horst, Bramall and Taylor were convicted today (1 December), following an 18-day trial, and are due to be sentenced at the same court on 22 February 2024.
Eleven other couriers have been convicted previously.
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 by UAE law enforcement.
2 December 2023