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Fake gold dust used in scam deals, says Scotland Yard

PUBLISHED: 17:26 19 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:10 07 September 2010

By Ed Thomas GOLD dust stashed at a Hampstead safety deposit centre has been revealed as painted metal. Armed police officers stormed the Hampstead Safe Depository on the Finchley Road on June 2 as part of an investigation into money laundering and other

By Ed Thomas

GOLD dust stashed at a Hampstead safety deposit centre has been revealed as painted metal.

Armed police officers stormed the Hampstead Safe Depository on the Finchley Road on June 2 as part of an investigation into money laundering and other serious criminal activity.

Last week we reported that six suitcases of gold dust had been recovered, along with cash, guns, explosives, cocaine, fake passports, paintings by Dutch masters and evidence of paedophilia.

But latest tests have proved the gold is fake, possibly for use in scam deals.

"Tests reveal that in fact the gold dust is not real," said a spokesman for Scotland Yard this week. "They are several metals sprayed gold to appear as real gold dust. Officers from the Economic and Specialist Crime Command (SCD6) believe that this sort of material would be used in scams."

So far, the total money seized from the Hampstead safe deposit, as well as two other depositories in Park Lane and Edgware, totals £53.5million.

Codenamed Operation Rize, the coordinated swoop saw police blasting open 7,000 deposit boxes in the Met's biggest ever operation against money laundering. Many innocent deposit box holders are still waiting to get their possessions back.

The operation also led police to the homes of Hampstead Safe Depository directors, 60-year-old South African Leslie Sieff on Ranulf Road and 53-year-old South African Milton Woolf on West Heath Drive.

In 1978, Mr Sieff and his wife, Jill, set up the Hampstead School of English on Finchley Road. So far, no charges have been brought against anyone questioned.

More than 400 police officers and staff have been working around the clock as part of the investigations.

The Met said Operation Rize was launched because companies could inadvertently be assisting organised criminal networks by storing their assets.

"In total, 6,717 boxes have been opened and searched, 3,608 of which had items inside. Each safe deposit box has been treated as a single potential crime scene," said a police spokesman.

"During the past 10 days a heavily armed convoy, led by the Special Escort Group, has been transporting the contents of the boxes to a secure location. Items have also been, and continue to be, returned to people who legitimately store items at the businesses.

"A large number of calls to the call centre have been received and this number - 0800 030 4613 - will continue to be active for some time.

"The investigation is now moving from a search and seizure phase to an investigative phase. Where criminality is suspected, evidence from the boxes has been passed to the relevant units within the Met police to investigate further and arrest those who have sought to use safe depositories for illegal purposes. There are likely to be in the region of 1,800 individual investigations as a result of Operation Rize.

"Early indications suggest that the majority of the cash is from the proceeds of criminal activity, much of it has been found without paperwork and even stuffed into plastic carrier bags.

"Intelligence suggests that the police operation has simultaneously impacted upon criminal networks in London, nationally and globally."

ed.thomas@hamhigh.co.uk


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