Master­mind jailed as £350,000 found in flat

How Lon­don has be­come a mag­net for money laun­der­ers

The Wharf - - Front Page - Giles Broad­bent

Po­lice have bro­ken a largescale money-laun­der­ing op­er­a­tion in­volv­ing mil­lions of pounds, fi­nally jail­ing its Isle of Dogs master­mind this week.

Scot­land Yard watched as couri­ers swapped bags of cash in car parks in Po­plar and Lewisham and when they swooped on ring­leader Quao­jun Lou at his East Ferry Road home in June last year, they found more than £350,000 in cash, in dif­fer­ent de­nom­i­na­tions, wrapped in elas­tic bands and stuffed into boxes.

On the mo­bile of phone of 38-year-old ring­leader at Penin­sula Court, po­lice found ev­i­dence that Lou and his as­so­ci­ates si­phoned mil­lions into Bank of China ac­counts for mys­tery un­der­world clients.

This week he was sen­tenced to three-and-a-half years.

He had changed his plea to guilty af­ter hear­ing charges of seven counts of money-laun­der­ing at Snares­brook Crown Court. Other mem­bers of the gang, from Brent­wood, Liver­pool, and south Lon­don were re­ceived sen­tences rang­ing from a 20-week sus­pended term to 16 months be­hind bars.

One of the couri­ers, Barry Nixon, 55, was found to have more than £300,000 of cash at his home ad­dress in Es­sex.

The Met’s Det Con Chris Woods, said: “Crim­i­nals will go to great lengths to laun­der the pro­ceeds of their crimes but we will go to greater lengths to dis­rupt their net­works.”

Money-laun­der­ing has be­come a sig­nif­i­cant crime in Lon­don with the pro­lif­er­a­tion of fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, for­eign ex­changes, cash prop­erty deals and, cru­cially, ac­cess to peo­ple skilled in ac­count­ing trick­ery.

Head of money laun­der­ing at the Na­tional Crime Agency David Lit­tle said: “High-end money laun­der­ing is a big fo­cus for us.

“The peo­ple who are set­ting these struc­tures up are very clever and have ac­cess to highly-skilled peo­ple.

“We don’t know what the true amount is but it’s in the tens or hun­dreds of bil­lions. It’s a truly ter­ri­fy­ing num­ber.”

The dis­rup­tion of the east Lon­don net­work comes just days af­ter the City of Lon­don Po­lice re­vealed it had ar­rested a 58-year-old man in pos­ses­sion of bankers’ drafts worth £30mil­lion in what is be­lieved to be the big­gest ever money seizure made by UK law en­force­ment.

Det Insp Craig Mullish, from the City of Lon­don Po­lice’s money laun­der­ing unit, said: “We be­lieve this man’s busi­ness ac­count was be­ing used by a global net­work of or­gan­ised crime op­er­a­tors to laun­der tens of mil­lions of pounds of stolen funds through the UK and then out into bank ac­counts around the world.”

While blue chip or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Wharf-based HSBC have paid mil­lions in fines for money laun­der­ing for “drug king­pins and rogue na­tions”, deal­ers fur­ther down the food chain are adopt­ing new meth­ods to clean their cash.

MPs heard on Tues­day that high street Fixed Odds Bet­ting Ter­mi­nals are in­creas­ingly be­ing used to clean cash. MPs were told that in one case in West York­shire case, the po­lice un­cov­ered £18,000 of FOBT tick­ets be­ing held by one drug dealer.

Drug deal­ers pump money into the ma­chine, gam­ble a lit­tle, then cash out with a printed ticket which ex­plains to po­lice why they’re strolling around with rolls of notes.

Even the Gam­bling Com­mis­sion has ad­mit­ted pri­vately that “a re­tail bet­ting model that in­cludes high vol­umes of cash trans­ac­tions, par­tic­u­larly where this in­cludes low in­di­vid­ual spend and a high level of anonymity, presents an in­her­ent money laun­der­ing risk”.

MP Carolyn Har­ris said on Tues­day: “The ma­chines have few fil­ters and the money laun­der­ers know how to work within the lim­its. Su­per­vi­sion is low and CCTV is poor, so it is a haven – for money laun­der­ers.

MP Jim McMa­hon said: “Let’s face it, if some­one wants to find a way of clean­ing money, los­ing 10% of it through one of these ma­chines is not a bad trans­ac­tional cost.”

‘We don’t know what the true amount is but it’s in the tens of bil­lions. It’s a truly ter­ri­fy­ing fig­ure’

Quao­jun Lou and, be­low, money found at his Isle of Dogs flat

Fixed Odds Bet­ting Ter­mi­nals

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