Drug dealer goes back to jail

A DRUG-DEALER has been sent back to jail after customs officers busted his money-laundering exchange.

Van salesman Paul Miles, 49, of Bancroft Road, was trapped at a deserted motorway junction as he met an accomplice to hand over 257,000 of criminal cash.

Revenue and Customs officers kept track of Miles after he finished a six-year cannabis supply sentence.

The money-laundering meeting, on August 29, 2006, came just nine months after his release.

Miles was jailed for three years at Croydon Crown Court on Friday (July 9).

Partner in crime Neerav Lashand, a foreign currency trader from Hertfordshire, was given three years and four months at the same time - the day of his 34th birthday.

The court heard Miles drove his white van containing the cash to a meeting with Lashand '“ managing director of Trade FX Ltd, Slough - at junction 20 of the M25 in Hertfordshire.

Prosecutor Christopher Kerr said Lashand arrived in a Mercedes to the clandestine rendezvous set up through text messages sent by an unknown third party.

"Lashand had come to collect the cash," said Mr Kerr. "He ran a money exchange bureau and regularly handled large sums."

Judge Timothy Stow QC told Lashand he was intending to misuse his expertise in transferring money abroad.

Unaware they were being watched as part of a larger sting dubbed Operation Clawed, the two men began the deal before customs officers swooped, seizing a cardboard box containing plastic bags, covered in Miles's fingerprints, stuffed with the cash.

Two empty briefcases, waiting to be filled with the notes, were found in Lashand's Mercedes.

Both men were accused of facilitating the use or control of criminal property.

Miles pleaded guilty, and a jury found Lashand guilty following a week-long trial.

Lashand's QC Alex Milne told the court: "His business is in jeopardy and he has lost considerable income. It has torn his life apart during the last four years."

Sentencing, Judge Stow said: "I am satisfied that both men knew that the money was criminal property and as such the proceeds of crime.

"Mr Lashand was not just suspicious of that, but knew it was so."

Detective Inspector Ian Williams, of Bexhill Police, said: "This was clearly at the upper end of the scale in terms of money laundering and proceeds of crime act offences, however, this is something that is considered regularly by the police in East Sussex.

"Criminals must be aware that not only will they be punished for their crimes but their assets are at risk no matter how small.

"We employ specialist financial investigators to ensure that this complex area of law is considered in every case."

Bob Gaiger, a spokesperson for HMRC, said the sentences sent a clear message to potential money-launderers, and that HMRC were now seeking confiscation of assets.

"I would encourage anyone with information relating to this type of crime to call our 24-hour hotline on 0800 59 5000, or email [email protected] and help us to stamp it out," he added.