Cash in suitcases conspiracy: three more people who helped smuggle £100 million of illegal cash into UK convicted
The guilty verdicts were returned earlier this week at Isleworth Crown Court. Samantha Horst, 51, from Staines-upon-Thames, Craig Bramall, 42, from Wigan and Bridget Taylor, 43, from Edinburgh, were all found guilty of money laundering for their part in a scheme which smuggled more than £104 million in suitcases during 83 separate London to Dubai trips between November 2019 and October 2020.
They join the 11 other people already convicted in relation to the case, following an NCA investigation some time ago. The whole operation was overseen by Abdullah Alfalasi, 48, who was jailed for more than nine years in July last year.
Adrian Searle, Director of the National Economic Crime Centre in the NCA, said:
“The laundering of such vast quantities of cash around the globe enables organised criminals and corrupt elites to hide their illegally-obtained wealth.
“Cash smugglers typically work on behalf of international controllers, who move the money generated by the international drug trade, people traffickers, fraudsters and other criminal groups, all with the intention of making the illicit source of the money difficult to trace.
“The criminality this enables costs the UK billions every year, causes misery and ruins lives across the world.
“This case demonstrates the NCA’s commitment to tackling money laundering, and preventing serious criminals from profiting from their activities.”
The couriers were paid around £3,000 for each trip and were booked on business class flights due to the extra luggage allowance. They coordinated their activities across several WhatsApp groups, including one called “Sunshine and Lollipops”.
Horst was arrested after NCA raids in May 2021. She made three trips to Dubai between August and September 2020, checking in 18 suitcases containing £6,8 million in cash. Taylor made the journey with a co-traveller that September, Taking five suitcases containing £2 million. She also transported £1.3 million across three suitcases that July. Making a single trip in September, Bramall removed approximately £1.3 million across three suitcases. All three were convicted on December 1, following an 18 day trial. They are due to be sentenced at the same court on February 22 2024
The NCA said the group collected cash from criminal groups around the UK – believed to be profits from drug dealing – and took it to counting houses, often rented flats in the middle of London.
Once it was counted, the money was vacuum packed and split into suitcases containing £500,000 each and weighing up to 40 kilos. They were then sprayed with coffee or air freshener in order to make sure they were not picked up by border force protection dogs.