Two men from Golders Green and Finchley among six sentenced over money laundering

Ali Al-Nawab, aged 40 from The Vale, and Mehdi Amrollahbibiyouki, aged 41 from Long Lane, were both handed their sentences on Friday

A statue of lady justice

Two men from Barnet are among six members of a money laundering network which smuggled more than £100million out of the UK to the United Arab Emirates.

The network transported the cash to Dubai during 83 separate trips between November 2019 and October 2020, overseen by ringleader Abdullah Alfalasi, 48, who has been jailed for more than nine years in July 2022.

The couriers, who were paid between £3,000-£5,000 for each trip and would be booked on business class flights due to the extra luggage allowance, communicated on WhatsApp groups including one titled ’Sunshine and lollipops’.

Charged with removal of property from England and Wales, namely cash, which, they knew or suspected, constituted or represented others benefit from criminal conduct, contrary to section 327 (1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, are:

  • Samantha Horst (DoB 22/05/1972), of Wendover Road, Staines-upon-Thames, Middlesex. (Convicted on 1 December 2023 and sentenced to 24 months imprisonment suspended for two years on 23 February 2024).
  • Bridget Jane Taylor (29/01/1980), of Manor Place, Edinburgh. (Convicted on 1 December 2023 and sentenced to 21 months imprisonment suspended for two years on 23 February 2024).
  • Craig Bramall (07/08/1981), from Abram, Wigan. (Convicted on 1 December 2023 Sentenced to 17 months imprisonment suspended for two years on 23 February 2024).
  • Ali Al-Nawab (DoB 01/01/1984), of The Vale, Golders Green, London. (Convicted on 11 January 2024 and sentenced to two years, suspended for two years, plus 250 hours of unpaid work on 26 April 2024).
  • Mehdi Amrollahbibiyouki (02/09/1982), of Long Lane, Finchley, London. (Convicted on 11 January 2024 and sentenced to four years on 26 April 2024).
  • Paige Henry, 26, from Birmingham, Samantha Horst, 51, from Staines-upon-Thames, Craig Bramall, 42, from Wigan, Bridget Taylor, 44, from Edinburgh, Ali Al-Nawab, 40, and Mehdi Amrollahbibiyouki, 41, both from London, were all sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court.

Adrian Searle, director of the National Economic Crime Centre in the National Crime Agency which carried out the investigation, said: “Money laundering fuels the global drugs trade, human trafficking, fraud, ransomware and many other crimes that cause misery and ruin lives.

“Today is an important step in removing one transnational criminal gang responsible for laundering at least £100million.

“Gangs such as this smuggle cash on behalf of international controller networks – apex criminals who deploy sophisticated techniques to move and conceal the proceeds of crime in eye watering volumes and, sometimes, at the click of a button. The world’s most dangerous organised criminals and corrupt elites cannot operate effectively without them.

“With 17 people sentenced, this case highlights the scale and level of organisation money launderers will deploy to commit their crimes. The NCA is committed to targeting these gangs and working with our partners across the globe to reduce the threat from all forms of illicit finance.”

Horst, who was arrested following NCA raids in May 2021, made three trips to Dubai between August and September 2020, checking in 18 suitcases containing £6.8m. Taylor made the journey with a co-traveller in September 2020, taking five suitcases containing £2m. She also transported £1.3m in three suitcases in July of that year.

Bramall removed an estimated £1.3m in three suitcases during the one trip he made in September 2020.

Henry made four trips to Dubai in August and September 2020, one alone and three with other couriers, carrying a total of 24 suitcases containing £9.05m. 

Amrollahbibiyouki, who was arrested at his home address in April 2022, made three trips to Dubai in February and March 2020, checking in 12 suitcases containing £4.3m. Evidence on his phones revealed that he had also been responsible for counting and packaging criminal cash totalling £11.1m for eight trips made by other couriers, including the ones he made himself.

Al-Nawab was arrested in May 2022 as he was leaving the UK to travel to Turkey. He made two journeys in March 2020, checking in nine suitcases containing £3.2m.

The network collected cash from criminal groups around the UK, which was mainly the profits of drug dealing, and took it to counting houses that were rented apartments in Central London.

The money was then vacuum packed and separated into suitcases, which would typically each contain around £500,000. They were sprayed with coffee or air fresheners in an effort to prevent them being found by sniffer dogs.

NCA senior investigating officer Ian Truby said: “This was cash smuggling on a breath-taking scale. Although many of the couriers regarded these trips as paid for adventures in the sun, the stark reality is that this cash was generated from real-world harm.

“Profits are often re-invested into criminal activities such as drug trafficking, which fuels violence and insecurity in the UK and across the world.

“This case, one of the largest of its kind ever investigated by the NCA, demonstrates our commitment to targeting the criminal networks involved in international money laundering.”

At Isleworth Crown Court on 22nd February Horst was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment suspended for two years, Taylor to 21 months imprisonment suspended for two years and Bramall to 17 months imprisonment suspended for two years. Henry was sentenced to two years imprisonment suspended for two years on 15th March. Today (Friday 26th), Al-Nawab was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years. Amrollahbibiyouki was sentenced to four years.

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