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£3.5m money launderers tried to stuff cash into office drawer

Two men caught trying to hide more than £100,000 in a filing cabinet have been jailed for laundering £3.5 million of criminal cash.

Builders Akmal Begum, 40, and Javed Ahmad, 44, both of Burnley, were found stuffing cash into a drawer when HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) raided their rented office space in November 2015.

HMRC officers forced entry into the unit, in Burnley’s Elm Street, and recovered £103,500, which has since been forfeited. They also discovered deposit slips proving the men – along with taxi driver Sajjad Syed, 48, of Bolton – had paid in more than £3.5 million to banks across Leyland, Bolton, Burnley, Accrington, Nelson, Preston and Blackburn.

Between June 2014 and April 2015 the three men made 36 deposits and went on to make a further 821 cash deposits in the seven months between May and November 2015.

The trio were caught on CCTV at multiple branches of the same bank on the same days. In just one day, in November 2015, they made 33 different deposits totalling more than £95,000.

Richard Wilkinson, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“This was money laundering on an industrial scale. These men were like couriers, zig-zagging across Lancashire making dozens of deposits in a matter of hours, and it was their own paying in slips that helped prove the true scale of this criminal enterprise.

“Money laundering helps organised crime gangs and we will not hesitate to prosecute those involved. I would urge anyone with information on this type of fraud to contact the fraud hotline on 0800 788 887.”

All three men were convicted of laundering £3,549,680 in cash between 17 June 2014 and 17 November 2015.

Begum and Ahmad were found guilty of possessing £103,500 of criminal cash. Ahmad was convicted on another count of possessing a further £59,336, which was cash that had been deposited into his business bank account. Syed was found guilty on one additional count of possessing £3,000 of criminal cash, which was found in his car.

They were sentenced at Burnley Crown Court on Wednesday 19 December to:

  • Begum was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail.
  • Ahmad was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail.
  • Syed was sentenced to 30 months in jail.

Information about any type of tax fraud can also be reported to HMRC online at www.gov.uk/report-an-unregistered-trader-or-business

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