Ikea meetings led to capture of money laundering syndicate

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(London Post – PR – NCA )

Five members of a money laundering syndicate who used the car park of an Ikea store to carry out illicit cash handovers have been jailed.

The network, which National Crime Agency investigators believe laundered millions of pounds over nine months, centred on two money transfer businesses based in North Finchley, and was headed up by Iranian-born Ciavash Pishehvarz, 60.

Their downfall began in September 2011, when cash couriers Elyass Benelabed, 59, Mahmood Saadat, 44, and Mohammed Korejany, 40, met in the car park of Ikea in Wembley.


(Left to right) Benelabed, Korejany, Pishehvarz, Saadat

The men were unaware that they were under surveillance and that officers were watching as they transferred a package from one car to another. In the run up to the meeting Korejany and Sadat had both been in phone contact with Pishehvarz.

Benelebad and Korejany met in the same place the following day, when investigators witnessed another bag being handed over. Again, Korejany had been in phone contact with Pishehvarz. The two men were arrested, and officers found the bag contained almost £150,000 in used notes.

Searches of their home addresses led to the discovery of another £57,000. At Korejany’s address in Golders Green investigators interrupted his wife Solmal Jalali, 31, and Saadat, attempting to remove evidence, including bank deposit slips, business records, mobile telephones and £43,350 in cash.

A further £14,000 cash was recovered from the home address of Benelabed.

Analysis of CCTV pictures showed that cars belonging to the two had visited Ikea on numerous separate occasions previously. Each time large cash payments were then received at a money transfer business, run by Korejany and his wife from premises in High Road, North Finchley.

Korejany, Jalali and Saadat would then break up the money and pay it into accounts at banks and automated banking machines across north London in small chunks in an effort to conceal the scale.

Pishehvarz and Jalali were arrested in July 2012.  £50,000 was found at Pishehvarz’s address, along with a memory stick which contained a ledger, amongst its entries the cash handed over by Benelabed. The total of all the entries in the ledger was £9.25 million.

Searches of the two money transfer businesses, both run out of the same address, unearthed paying in slips totalling just under £2 million for a nine month period.

Investigators also found evidence of the group’s links to other organised criminals, among them Mohammed Farooq and Ahmed Shah, two Midlands-based drug traffickers who were jailed for 29 years each in 2013 for their roles in a plot to bring 500 kilos of heroin to the UK.

Phone evidence showed that they were in contact with Pishehvarz and Saadat in August 2011.

National Crime Agency Branch Commander Oliver Higgins said:

“Organised criminals need people who can launder their cash to make it look legitimate.

“These men were professional money launderers responsible for processing millions of pounds of criminal cash during a period of just nine months.

“As well as pursuing money launderers, NCA continues to work with the financial sector to protect businesses and individuals.”

The NCA is now working towards confiscating the proceeds of crime from all five. Anyone with any information about assets which they believe any of the group acquired as a result of their crimes should report it to the investigation team via the NCA Control Centre on 0370 496 7622, or anonymously via Crimestoppers .

Sentences

– Ciavash PISHEHVARZ: (dob 28/06/1954) of Stancroft, The Hyde, London  NW9 was found guilty of two counts of money laundering and received a sentence of 7 years imprisonment.

– Mahmood SAADAT: (dob 23/09/1970) of Stateland Court, Arnos Grove, London N11, was found guilty of one count of money laundering and received a sentence of 2 years imprisonment

– Mohammed Tagi KOREJANY: (dob 26/10/1974) of North End Road, Golders Green, London NW11 admitted one charge of money laundering and was sentenced to four years and 10 months in prison.

– Solmaz JALALI: (dob 09/03/1983) of North End Road, Golders Green, London NW11 was found guilty of money laundering and received a two year sentence suspended for two years.

– Elyass BENELABED: (dob 28/06/1955) of Fulham Court, Fulham, London SW6 admitted one charge of money laundering and was sentenced to two years in prison.

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