Gang who laundered cash for drug traffickers jailed
A "sophisticated" gang has been jailed for a £10 million conspiracy which saw them launder millions for drug traffickers and organised crime groups across the UK.
The six-strong group from Manchester led by Razwan Munir, 39, all admitted money laundering offences.
The members were observed receiving up to £250,000 in cash from known criminals in holdalls, laundry bags and even a builder's bucket at hotels and motorway service stations across the North West.
Officers from Titan - the North West organised crime unit - said the group profited "handsomely" from their involvement which, in turn, helped "illegal businesses thrive".
The defendants' profits enabled them to live lavish lifestyles with luxury cars, designer clothes and jewellery worth thousands of pounds.
Munir - who admitted his part in co-ordinating most of the £10m conspiracy - also used the cash to pay for his children's private education plus shopping trips for his wife at Harrods, Dubai, Hong Kong and France.
When police raided his home in Egerton Drive, Hale, in December 2014 they found a 20g gold bar in a chest of drawers, a £92,000 Range Rover Autobiography, a Porsche insured for £99,000 and £1,000 in cash in a trouser pocket.
He and fellow "co-ordinator" Mohammed Kamran Chaudhry, 34, of Butterstile Avenue, Prestwich, who also pleaded guilty to a leading role on the basis that he brought around £1.2m of criminal money into the scheme, profited by more than £300,000.
Munir was jailed for nine years and Chaudhry for four years and seven months at Manchester Crown Court.
Detectives said that although the enterprise was operated out of nondescript business premises in Salford and Cheetham Hill, they believed it was ultimately controlled by unknown parties in Pakistan.
The defendants would receive cash from drug dealing crimes and pay it into bank accounts before transferring the money abroad to hide its criminal origin from authorities.
Imran Sarwar, 33, of Prospect Drive, Hale Barns, who was the gang's main collector of the cash and banked up to £1.5m, was jailed for four years and six months.
"Collector and transmitter" Waqar Afzal, 51, of no fixed abode, was jailed for three years for money laundering and 22 months to run concurrent for fraud.
Book-keepers Nokhaz Haider, 36, of Broomhurst Avenue, Oldham, who received four years and six months and Umar Haq, 39, of Edge Lane, Chorlton, who received three years, were jailed for their part in the money laundering.
The police investigation was sparked following the large number of high value cash deposits being made at post offices and high street banks in Manchester.
Investigators were to find a total of 45 bank accounts held in the name of 25 limited companies that were used in the gang's transactions.
Speaking after the six were jailed, detective superintendent Jason Hudson from Titan said: "This group represents the hierarchy of a professional team of money launderers who laundered millions of pounds worth of cash for criminal groups across the North West and beyond.
"They facilitated the activities of many groups suspected of drug trafficking and in doing so helped their illegal businesses thrive.
"By investigating and prosecuting this group we have attacked and disrupted the criminal finance routes used by a large number of criminal groups.
"This group profited handsomely from their involvement, living a lavish lifestyle buying high powered motor cars and travelling extensively."
Specialist prosecutor Nigel James, from the International Justice and Organised Crime Division of the Crown Prosecution Service, said there was "clear evidence the individuals were living lavish lifestyles beyond their declared incomes".
This was shown by their frequent holidays abroad, expensive cars and receipts for designer clothes.
He added: "We also looked at messages between the individuals, including Imran Sarwar joking in October 2014 that the target for laundering cash was £9 million by Christmas.
"The CPS will now take steps to recover the criminal assets of these individuals under the Proceeds of Crime Act."