£15m fraud gang jailed
A criminal gang caught red-handed with bundles of ‘dirty’ cash, part of £15 million made from selling alcohol illegally in the UK, has been jailed for a total of 19 years.
Investigators from HM Revenue and Customs found that the criminals, from Kent, West Sussex and Essex, laundered large amounts of cash through two businesses that were allegedly selling alcohol outside the UK. In fact the businesses were run to launder the illicit cash, made from selling alcohol illegally in the UK without paying excise duty and VAT.
Louca Christos Louca, 51, from Kent, company director of Ramsgate based Eurolink Trading Ltd, was arrested on 24 October 2011 after investigators discovered almost £100,000 cash inside his car.
The following day Gary Bissenden, 50, from Kent and Lucy Buckingham, 30, from East Grinstead, West Sussex, were arrested in an East Grinstead car park. Bissenden was carrying a holdall containing nearly £160,000 in cash. A further £17,750 and 11,000 euros were found at his then home in Herne Bay, Kent.
Lucy Buckingham faked documents to facilitate the alcohol fraud and money laundering. She worked for Saffire Trading Ltd of East Grinstead - a company run by Steve Randall, 44, from Romford, Essex.
Analysis of business records show Eurolink Trading Ltd and Saffire Trading Ltd were run to launder the proceeds of illicit alcohol sold in the UK. From 1 November 2010 to 3 February 2012, £15 million in proceeds from these illegal sales was transferred from their business accounts (Saffire Trading £1.6 million and Eurolink Trading £13.4 million) into their main supplier’s bank account. The supplier, York Wines Ltd of Southend on Sea, has since ceased trading.
HMRC investigators seized £19,190 cash, business records, phones and computers at Saffire Trading’s business premises. Documents had been faked to show trade taking place in France, but laptop evidence revealed the alcohol was being sold at outlets across the UK.
All four defendants were charged with proceeds of crime offences linked to alcohol fraud. They were found guilty after an eight-week trial and were jailed for a total of 19 years at Southwark Crown Court on Friday (22 April 2016).
His Honour Judge Robbins commended the HMRC officers involved in the investigation.
A Proceeds of Crime Order is in place.