LONDON: A 30-year-old British woman has been jailed for almost three years over money laundering offences worth more than £5 million ($6.8 million).
Tara Hanlon, from the north of England, was arrested on Oct. 3 while boarding a flight to Dubai and carrying £1.9 million of cash hidden in five suitcases.
She pleaded guilty at a London court in June having previously admitted to three counts of removing criminal property relating to cash amounts.
When arrested, Hanlon had been travelling with a friend to Dubai for a holiday with pals and told arresting officers that she had many suitcases because she “wasn’t sure what to wear” while away.
British border officials said the seizure was the biggest cash capture that the force had made in 2020.
Hanlon had hidden the cash in vacuum-packed bags surrounded by coffee to keep sniffer dogs off the scent.
She told investigators it was her first trip, but when they searched her phone and checked with her airline, they found she had made three previous visits as a courier. These were in July and August 2020, and she was paid approximately £3,000 for each trip.
Hanlon had texted friends that her job gave her the “perfect life,” and said: “Few days in the sun and a few at home.” She also bragged about her job and added: “Three big ones … with this wage and the next my debts go bye.”
Hanlon’s lawyer argued in court that she was vulnerable at the time of the offences because the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic meant that she had lost access to work. He added that her crimes were committed shortly after the unexpected death of her mother in March.
Judge Karen Holt said: “Although you were vulnerable at the time, I don’t find that you have been exploited and find that you knew what you were doing.”
National Crime Agency (NCA) senior investigating officer, Ian Truby, said: “Tara Hanlon thought that she was going to be living a jet-set lifestyle, instead she is now serving a prison sentence.
“I hope her story is a cautionary one for others who would consider doing the same. Stopping the flow of illicit cash is a priority for the NCA and our partners.”