Special K drugs gang sentenced

PUBLISHED: 14:36 11 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:45 07 September 2010

A TEAM of money launderers who exchanged £24million in dirty drugs money for clean euros using a fake Bureau de Change have been sentenced. The 13-strong gang, which included members from Lisson Grove and Paddington, used shopping trolli

Sanchez Manning

A TEAM of money launderers who exchanged £24million in 'dirty' drugs money for clean euros using a fake Bureau de Change have been sentenced.

The 13-strong gang, which included members from Lisson Grove and Paddington, used shopping trollies and Special K cereal boxes to collect the millions in just eight months on behalf of gangland bosses.

Brothers Ali Mohamed Rawand and Ali Arivan were in charge of the operation but they were assisted in their masterminding of the audacious scheme by Nawzad Ahmed, 36, of Simpson House in Lisson Grove.

They used a seemingly legitimate foreign exchange bureau on Edgware Road to front their illegal activities.

At Guildford Crown Court, David Hewitt, prosecuting, said: "This was a multi-million pound money laundering operation which was conducted by these defendants and others over a number of months."

The jury heard that other money bureaus, including the Interchange Organisation Ltd, Marble Arch, were told by the couriers that they were exchanging money for a company called Kurdistan Ltd to disguise the amount of illegal cash passing through their hands.

Mr Ahmed alone signed for a huge €1.7million at a Bureau de Change between March and April 2007, which was later swapped for the drugs money.

The ring was busted after an investigation by revenue and customs in which Arivan's Audi was bugged and the team were arrested in various swoops by the law enforcement agencies.

Covert surveillance watching the brothers and their team of couriers saw them exchange parcels of pounds sterling for euros, minus a commission.

They swapped the 'dirty' proceeds of drug deals for 'clean' euros off the premises of their bureau de change - at motorway service stations and at the homes of their criminal operatives.

The only female member of the gang, Eftychia Symeonidoy, 50, used her flat in Paddington, as a storage area for the cash.

She was videoed by customs officers taking a Kellogg's Special K cereal box loaded with £300,000 drug money to a waiting car - before going straight back inside as the car went off.

Seven members of the gang admitted between one and three money laundering offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Rawand, of Kilburn, was jailed for six years, and Ali, of no fixed abode was jailed for five years. Symeonidoy, of Paddington, was jailed for 20 months.

Mohamed Buanani, 37, of Harlesden, was jailed for 20 mon-ths, Keith Penny, 39, of Kilburn, was jailed for two and a half years. Michael O'Leary, of Covent Garden, was jailed for 20 months. Andrew Dickson, 41, of Bournemouth, was jailed for 20 months.

The remaining six members of the gang were convicted after a trial for money laundering offences.

Ali Mahmood Sardar, 37, of Southall, the only member of the gang who faces deportation, was sentenced to 30 months.

Nawzad Ahmed was jailed for two and a half years, Darsim Abdullah, 39, of Barnes, was jailed for one year.

Sadiq Altalibi, 33, of Hammersmith, a courier on benefits who also worked as a taxi driver was jailed for six months.

On Monday, the last two members of the gang, Hasiv Rashid, 70, and Anwar Hardi, 36, were sentenced to one year and three years respectively.

Judge Michael Addison, sentencing, told Rashid and Hardi: "Your offences are so serious only a custodial sentence will do.

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