London, Sep 16 (IANS) A group of 16 people, including many of Indian-origin, have been given jail sentences totalling more than 70 years for their involvement in international money laundering and people smuggling in the UK.
An investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) identified that members of a West London-based organised crime group, led by 'ringleader' Charan Singh, were likely to have smuggled around 70 million pounds in cash out of the UK, making hundreds of trips to Dubai between 2017 and 2019.
NCA officers believe the money was profit from the sale of class A drugs and organised immigration crime.
Following a three-day sentencing hearing at Croydon Crown Court, which concluded on Friday, 44-year-old Charan Singh from Hounslow, 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 members of the crime group -- Amarjeet Alabadis, Jaginder Kapoor, Jackdar Kapoor, Manmon Singh Kapur, Pinky Kapur and Jasbeer Singh Malhotra -- were given sentences ranging between nine years and 11 months.
The individuals arrested and charged as part of the NCA operation were prosecuted in two trials at Croydon Crown Court in south London starting in January this year.
“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," NCA senior investigating officer Chris Hill said.
“The sentences handed down today (Friday) marks the culmination of that investigation and years of work by our officers."
As part of the investigation, NCA officers also uncovered a plot involving members of the organised crime group (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.
Charan Singh was among those detained in a series of early morning raids across west London.
Investigators were able to prove that Charan, 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 Charan 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.
After the sentencing, Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings will now be commencing, with a view to identifying and seizing assets obtained as a result of the gang’s criminality.
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