Cam­bridge don in £2.3m green scam smug­gled cash to Iran in choco­late boxes

Daily Mail - - DR MAX - By Chris Green­wood Chief Crime Cor­re­spon­dent­wood@dai­ly­

‘As­pects of a Greek tragedy’

A CAM­BRIDGE aca­demic is fac­ing jail af­ter ad­mit­ting smug­gling hun­dreds of thou­sands of pounds out of the coun­try in boxes of choco­lates.

Dr Eh­san Abdi- Jalebi, 37, slipped wads of £50 notes into Thorn­tons Con­ti­nen­tal se­lec­tion boxes ev­ery time he flew home to Iran.

The en­gi­neer milked up to £2.3mil­lion in re­new­able en­ergy grants from the Gov­ern­ment and the Euro­pean Union. But in­stead of us­ing the grants for wind tur­bine re­search equip­ment, he spent days with­draw­ing as much money as he could from cash­points.

The fel­low at Churchill Col­lege spent the money on a man­sion in Tehran, a £400,000 fam­ily home near Cam­bridge and a Maserati sports car.

But bor­der of­fi­cials be­came sus­pi­cious af­ter re­peat­edly find­ing the money in his lug­gage.

At first, Abdi- Jalebi said he was un­able to trans­fer the money through the bank­ing sys­tem due to strict sanc­tions against Iran.

He pro­duced bank ac­count state­ments, com­pany ac­counts and in­voices to demon­strate his sup­pos­edly wealthy back­ground.

But he was stopped again at Heathrow with £100,000 in boxes when an of­fi­cial re­alised he was us­ing the same pa­per­work to jus­tify fur­ther earn­ings.

Yes­ter­day at South­wark Crown Court, he pleaded guilty to 13 charges of forgery. Judge Martin Bed­doe warned Abdi- Jalebi he now faces ‘ a lengthy pe­riod of im­pris­on­ment’.

He or­dered the aca­demic, who has been stripped of his uni­ver­sity fel­low­ship, to for­feit his Bri­tish and Ira­nian pass­ports and to re­turn next month to be sen­tenced.

David Sonn, Abdi- Jalebi’s lawyer, de­scribed his crimes and down­fall as hav­ing ‘some as­pects of a Greek tragedy’.

At first, in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the Na­tional Crime Agency (NCA) pre­pared to seize the money as the sus­pected pro­ceeds of crime. But when they probed firms linked to the elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer, they found he had mas­ter­minded a com­plex fraud.

Abdi- Jalebi had won in­ter­na­tional ac­claim for his work to im­prove the re­li­a­bil­ity of largescale wind tur­bines and was a tech com­pany di­rec­tor.

Ian Truby, of the NCA, who led the in­quiry, said: ‘He ex­tracted sub­stan­tial sums of money from com­pany ac­counts through false bank state­ments that showed they were loan re­pay­ments.

‘ There was some gen­uine re­search tak­ing place but that was done by PhD stu­dents who pro­vided the labour for free as part of their stud­ies. He was also able to con­vince them that he had to put money through their bank ac­counts to se­cure fur­ther funds.

‘ He trans­ferred money from com­pany bank ac­counts to those of in­no­cent third par­ties be­fore al­most im­me­di­ately putting it into his per­sonal ac­counts.’

Fac­ing jail: Dr Eh­san Abdi-Jalebi hid wads of £50 notes in Thorn­tons Con­ti­nen­tal choco­late boxes

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