UK MONEY LAUNDERERS MOVED £10M TO OFF-SHORE BANK ACCOUNTS + ORGANIZED IT ALL OVER WhatsApp
(top row left – right) Razwan Munir, 39, Mohammed Kamran Chaudhry, 34, + Imran Sarwar, 33,
(bottom row left – right) Waqar Afzal, 51, Nokhaz Haider, 36, + Umar Haq, 39,
who have all been jailed at Manchester Crown Court
A £10m money laundering conspiracy which squirrelled cash from drug trafficking to offshore bank accounts was coordinated on WhatsApp.
Six men are today beginning jail sentences after each admitted becoming concerned in a money laundering arrangement, using the free smartphone messaging system to organise the plot.
The operation – based at Broughton Business Centre on Broughton Lane in Salford and a second address near Manchester city centre – was brought down by a surveillance operation by the Regional Organised Crime Unit, spanning between April and November 2014.
Conspirators collected bags from drug dealers and fraudsters and paid it into banks inCheetham before wiring it to accounts held in Hong Kong. The postmaster of the Hightown Post office at Waterloo Road, Cheetham Hill, reported his concerns after about £3m in deposits were made by the gang.
The conspiracy was organised using WhatsApp, a judge was told.
Razwan Munir was the coordinator of the operation, organising the collection of £10m from criminals, its concealment in bank accounts held in the name of limited companies and its transfer overseas, on the instructions of a shadowy controller based in Pakistan known only as ‘Khan’, prosecutor William Baker told Manchester Crown Court.
Munir, 30, of Egerton Drive, Hale, has now been jailed for nine years. When he was arrested he had £1,000 in his trouser pocket and a 20g gold bar in a chest of drawers. Officers also learnt he was putting his kids through private school.
In 2014 alone he travelled to Spain twice, Turkey three times, Medina, Pakistan, Brussels, Milan, Dublin, Paris, Dubai three times and Hong Kong. He drove a £92,000 Range Rover Autobiography, a £90,000 Porsche, a £40,000 Mercedes, and his wife enjoyed shopping sprees in Harrods, Dubai, Hong Kong and France.
Beneath him in the conspiracy was Mohammed Kamran Chaudhry, 34, of Chatburn Road,Chorlton, who transferred £1m of the cash. Chaudhry is the brother of drug dealer Basit Chaudhry, who was the prime suspect in the hit and run killing of Craig Rodger, 25, who was mowed down by a Porsche as he crossed Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, in March 2014. Basit fled the UK in the aftermath of the crash and was killed in another car crash in Dubai in March last year.
Sending down Mohammed Kamran Chaudhry for four years and seven months, Judge Patrick Field QC said he took into account the ‘tragedy’ that had befallen his family, adding ‘you have let your family down enormously by your conduct.’
Nokhaiz Haider, 36, of Broomhurst Avenue, Oldham, was the scam’s book keeper, keeping a record of the cash received and its movements. He was paid between £1,500 and £1,800 a month for his role – equivalent to a tax-free salary of 25k-a-year – the judge said. Sending him down for four-and-a-half years, Judge Field described him as a ‘pivotal part’ of a ‘sophisticated money laundering operation’.
Imran Sarwar was a collector and transmitter of cash from crime, and was paid £300-a-week. He travelled to Hong Kong and Dubai and it’s believed up to £1.5m passed through his hands. The 23-year-old, of Prospect Drive, Hale Barns, has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.
Umar Haq, 36, of Edge Lane, Chorlton, allowed his company, Sinotec Asia Ltd, to be used as a vehicle for moving nearly £900,000 of cash, and stood in for Haider as book keeper when he went on holiday to Barcelona. He was jailed for three years.
Waqar Afzal, 51, of Arlington Road, Stretford, also had bank accounts belonging to his firm, Verdo Traders, to be used to transfer £750,000 cash, and banked money for the conspiracy at Waterloo Road Post Office in Cheetham Hill. He was also involved in the laundering of £182,000 stolen from the bank account of an elderly dementia sufferer whose daughter had dropped her passport and his banking details in a bank in Sheffield. He was also sentenced to three years.
Opening the sentencing hearing, prosecutor William Baker said: “The defendants were involved in a money laundering enterprise that laundered in the region of £10m of cash from crime. They received cash from couriers, paid it into bank accounts held in the name of limited companies, transferred it between these bank accounts to give it the appearance of legitimate trade, then transferred it abroad directly or using company called OPT FX. This was all done to conceal the criminal origin of the cash so that its criminal owners could use it without intervention by the authorities.”
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