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UK seizes assets of UAE ringleader of $131m cash smuggling network

March 22, 2024 at 9:07 am

Euro, Dollar, British Pound [Matt Cardy/Getty Images]

British authorities have issued a confiscation order for the assets of an Emirati national who ran a network smuggling money gained from organised crime, in what was the largest case of money laundering ever run from the United Kingdom.

According to the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), the Isleworth Crown Court this week ordered 48-year-old Emirati national Abdullah Alfalasi to pay a total of £3,496,778.68 ($4.4 million) within three months, as damages for the cash smuggling operations he led between November 2019 and October 2020.

In 2022, Alfalasi was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to money laundering charges, including the coordination of a ring of couriers who smuggled £104 million ($131.6 million) – believed to be profits from drug dealing – from the UK to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Couriers were reportedly assigned to carry suitcases containing hundreds of thousands or millions of pounds vacuum packed in bundles, and were able to travel in business class to increase their luggage allowance. At least 16 couriers were convicted as part of that network, with Alfalasi having made multiple trips as a courier himself.

Read: UAE takes measures to clean its image as failing to stem money laundering

The smuggling network was also able to initially hide its activities through the use of a company named Gold Trading LLC, which enabled it to cover the couriers’ cash declarations.

Following the NCA’s investigation into the laundered money, British and Emirati authorities seized numerous assets from Alfalasi including “savings and investments in Emirati banks, his share of properties in the UAE, cryptocurrency funds in a Binance account, vehicles including a Mercedes G63, Ford pickup truck and Toyota Yaris, three Rolex watches and a Patek Philippe watch,” according to the agency.

If Alfalasi fails to pay the more than £3 million in compensation within the next three months, he will reportedly face an extra ten years in prison along with the current sentence of nine years.

“Alfalasi oversaw a criminal network of cash couriers who moved dirty money, the lifeblood of organised crime groups, out of the UK at an unprecedented scale,” NCA Senior Investigating Officer, Ian Truby, stated. “He now has a clear choice; to pay the money he owes or face more jail time.”