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