Sixteen people who were part of a West London-based organised crime group involved in international money laundering and people smuggling have been given jail sentences totalling more than 70 years.
A National Crime Agency investigation identified that members of the network were likely to have smuggled around £70 million in cash out of the UK, making hundreds of trips to Dubai, UAE, between 2017 and 2019.
NCA officers believe the money was profit from the sale of class A drugs and organised immigration crime.
Around £1.5 million was seized from couriers leaving the UK but flight analysis, evidence from cash declarations in Dubai, and other material seized by the NCA showed the group had succeeded in transporting far more.
As part of the investigation NCA officers also uncovered a plot involving members of the OCG to smuggle 17 migrants, including five children and a pregnant woman, into the UK in the back of a van carrying tyres in 2019.
The van was intercepted by Dutch police, who were working with the NCA, before it could reach a ferry at the Hook of Holland.
In November 2019, following weeks of surveillance, communications and flight data analysis, officers moved in to make arrests. Gang ringleader Charan Singh, 44, from Hounslow, was among those detained in a series of early morning raids across west London.
Investigators were able to prove that Singh, who was formerly resident in the UAE, paid for flights to Dubai for other members of the network so they could carry cash.
He also kept a ledger showing how much had been transported and when. It showed that at least 58 trips to Dubai were made by Singh and his couriers during 2017 alone.
Further arrests followed and 18 people were eventually charged and prosecuted in two trials at Croydon Crown Court, starting in January 2023.
The first trial, which concluded in April, saw six people, including Singh, found guilty of money laundering offences. Two defendants were additionally convicted for facilitating illegal immigration along with a third individual.
Midway through the second trial, which started in April, six defendants changed their plea to guilty in relation to money laundering offences.
Following a three-day sentencing hearing at Croydon Crown Court which concluded today [15 September], Charan Singh was handed a 12-and-a-half year jail term. His right hand man Valjeet Singh got 11 years, while trusted lieutenant Swander Singh Dhal got 10 years for money laundering and an additional five years for people smuggling.
The other 15 members of the crime group were given sentences ranging between nine years and 11 months.
Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings will now commence, with a view to identifying and seizing assets obtained as a result of the gang’s criminality.
NCA senior investigating officer Chris Hill said:
“Charan Singh and his network thought they were untouchable, moving tens of millions of pounds of criminal cash out of the UK.
“The NCA mounted a long and complex investigation into their activities, and over a two year period we were able to evidence their involvement in money laundering and organised immigration crime.
“The sentences handed down today marks the culmination of that investigation and years of work by our officers.
“We remain determined to protect the public and target criminal networks operated by those like Charan Singh, and we will use the full range of tactics at our disposal to disrupt and dismantle them.”
Tackling organised immigration crime remains a top priority for the NCA, the agency has more than 90 ongoing investigations into networks or individuals in the top tier of organised immigration crime or human trafficking – the highest harm.