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Gold dust and explosives seized in £40million deposit box raid

PUBLISHED: 16:37 12 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:09 07 September 2010

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Organised crime will be hit by operation, says police commander POLICE investigating money laundering at a Hampstead safe depository have uncovered more than £40million in cash, as well as a haul of guns, explosives, drugs, evidence of paedophilia and s

Organised crime will be hit by operation, says police commander

POLICE investigating money laundering at a Hampstead safe depository have uncovered more than £40million in cash, as well as a haul of guns, explosives, drugs, evidence of paedophilia and six suitcases of gold dust.

On Monday last week, gun-toting officers swooped on Hampstead Safe Depository on the Finchley Road and the Hampstead homes of two directors of the company Safe Deposit Centres (SDC).

In a co-ordinated operation, armed officers raided 60-year-old South African Leslie Sieff's house on Ranulf Road, the home of 53-year-old South African Milton Woolf on West Heath Drive and two other depositories in Park Lane and Edgware.

Safe deposit boxes were removed and searched for evidence of criminal activity and proceeds of crime. Mr Sieff was held on suspicion of money laundering offences and questioned at length by police.

Last Thursday afternoon, explosive materials were discovered at the Hampstead Safe Depository and police closed the Finchley Road. Confusion reigned as parents arrived to pick up children from nearby schools.

One elderly lady said: "I was just sitting on my bus and they threw us all off. Since then they haven't told us anything really."

Traffic was diverted as controlled explosions were carried out, but the road was reopened at 4.30pm.

The raids have been codenamed Operation Rize and are the Met's biggest ever operation against money laundering at safe depositories with more than 7,000 boxes being removed from the three premises.

Commander Allan Gibson, head of the economic and specialist crime directorate, said: "Search teams have been working around the clock to open all the boxes at the locations and are progressing well, although we are likely to remain at the locations for some time yet.

"This is a complex and unique investigation that will use all of the expertise within the economic crime command and the findings are within our expectations at this stage.

"I am confident that this operation will have a damaging impact on organised crime in London and around the rest of the country."

This week police revealed they have found £39million in euro, sterling and US dollar notes. They also seized two handguns - one of which was loaded - crack cocaine, cannabis and an as-yet-unidentified white powder, as well as paedophilia material.

Mr Sieff and a 44-year-old woman have been released on bail to return to Holborn police station in September.

In 1978 Mr Sieff and his wife Jill set up the Hampstead School of English on Finchley Road. Mrs Sieff, who was working at the school on Tuesday, declined to comment.

Other safe depository companies have moved to distance themselves from the raids.

Metrosafe, which runs depositories in St John's Wood and Brompton, has posted a message on its website to allay clients' fears it was linked to SDC.

It states: "Following events at another safe deposit company, the board of directors would like to reassure all customers that Metropolitan Safe Deposits Limited is not in any way implicated in the incident and has no association with the company involved.

"We continue to trade as normal from both our offices."

marc.mullen@hamhigh.co.uk


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