UK money-laundering ring used network of women including ‘Kim Kardashian lookalike’ to smuggle cash to UAE

The National Crime Agency’s investigation into Tara Hanlon, 30, began in October 2020 when she was prevented from boarding a flight from Heathrow to Dubai. (NCA)
The National Crime Agency’s investigation into Tara Hanlon, 30, began in October 2020 when she was prevented from boarding a flight from Heathrow to Dubai. (NCA)
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Updated 29 July 2022

UK money-laundering ring used network of women including ‘Kim Kardashian lookalike’ to smuggle cash to UAE

UK money-laundering ring used network of women including ‘Kim Kardashian lookalike’ to smuggle cash to UAE
  • Abdulla Alfalasi oversaw scheme to transport cash in suitcases on planes
  • National Crime Agency: ‘Network smuggled astronomical sums of money out of the UK’

LONDON: The UK’s biggest ever money-laundering case enlisted a network of 36 people, including a “Kim Kardashian lookalike” and other British women in white-collar jobs, to smuggle cash to the UAE.

The UK National Crime Agency discovered the scheme, which saw money sent to flats in central London from across the UK to be counted and packed into suitcases in quantities of up to £500,000 ($609,000) a time, each weighing around 40kg.

The bags would be packed with mouthwash and coat hangers to evade detection by X-ray machines, and sprayed with substances including coffee and air freshener to mask the smell and distract airport sniffer dogs. 

They would then be transported by the network of mules, who flew business class with the money to utilize extra baggage allowances, were paid up to £8,000 per trip for their services, and siphoned off at least 10 percent of the transported cash for themselves.

Among them were 30-year-old recruitment executive Tara Hanlon and 55-year-old communications professional Nicola Esson.

The latter made three trips to Dubai between August and September 2020, checking in 19 suitcases of cash weighing almost half a ton in total.

Hanlon, described as a “Kim Kardashian lookalike” by sections of the UK press, was arrested in Dubai in 2020 trying to return to London with several suitcases that she claimed were for outfits for a “girls’ holiday.”

A month later another mule, Czech national Zdenek Kamaryt, 39, was detained boarding a flight from Heathrow to Dubai with £1.3 million of cash in his bags. 

Another courier arrested was Muhammad Ilyas, who was detained after declaring four suitcases containing around £1.5 million in cash to customs in Dubai.

One of them, containing £431,360, went missing and was subsequently discovered by the UK Border Force.

In total, £104 million was ferried over the course of a year. Some of the cash was transferred into cryptocurrencies and laundered through gold operations in Africa.

It was Hanlon’s arrest that sparked the investigation, eventually leading to the group’s ringleader Abdulla Alfalasi, who was arrested at a London flat owned by an offshore company registered in the British territory of Gibraltar.

He was found to have traveled extensively between London and Dubai between November 2019 and March 2020, carrying £6 million in cash himself.

His signature was discovered on documents purporting to relate to a company called Omnivest Gold Trading, which was used as a front for cash declarations.

Prosecutor Julian Christopher QC, speaking at Isleworth crown court in west London, said that Alfalasi enlisted British woman Michelle Clarke to recruit the couriers, who were “typically young people, attracted by the money.”

Hanlon was sentenced to 34 months in prison in 2021. Esson and Ilyas will be sentenced later this year.

Alfalasi, 47, was sentenced to nine years and seven months in jail for sending money acquired through criminal activities to Dubai.

Judge Simon Davis told Alfalasi: “There is no doubt that this was a considerable network under your charge, not your sole charge, you were a principal but it is clear that there were others involved.”

Ian Truby, the NCA’s senior investigating officer, said: “This money-laundering network smuggled astronomical sums of money out of the UK … Cash is the lifeblood of organized crime groups, which they reinvest into activities such as drug trafficking, which fuels violence and insecurity around the world. Disrupting the supply of such illicit cash is a priority for the NCA and our partners.”


Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes

Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes
Updated 9 sec ago

Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes

Tunisia’s defense minister visits soldiers wounded in Mount Salloum clashes
  • 2 soldiers were wounded in last Friday’s clashes between army units and terrorists

DUBAI: Tunisia’s minister of defense, Imed Memmiche, visited two soldiers who were wounded in last Friday’s clashes between army units and terrorists in Mount Salloum in Kasserine. 
 
Memmiche went to the Tunis military hospital on Monday to commend the men for their ‘patriotism and sense of duty’, according to the Ministry of Defense’s statement released on state news agency TAP.


UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222

UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222
Updated 13 min 29 sec ago

UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222

UAE’s Dar Al Ber Society donates over $56m on global, local aid projects in 20222
  • The non-profit organization has donated to 22,517 projects so far this year

Dar Al Ber Society has spent over $56 million during the first half of 2022 on charitable and sustainable development projects that have benefitted 2.9 million people worldwide and in the UAE, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported on Monday. 

The non-profit organization has donated to 22,517 projects so far this year, according to WAM. 

More than $13.6 million were donated to a total of 8,901 projects in the first quarter of this year, while $14,128,257 were directed to 13,616 projects in the second quarter, the CEO and Managing Director of Dar Al Ber SocietyMuhammad Suhail Al-Muhairi said. 

Some of these humanitarian projects have been completed while others are underway, he added. 

The Dar Al Ber Society helped build 2,144 mosques – 904 in the first quarter and 1,240 in the second quarter. 

A total of 8,121 water-saving projects were also built with the help of the donations, Al-Muhairi said.

The organization helped set up 4,929 projects for families, as well as launch 5,285 medical projects, according to WAM. 

Dar Al Ber also implemented its seasonal projects in 37 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe, in cooperation with 32 of its partners in the respective countries.

Represented by the Department of Zakat in the Projects and Zakat Sector, Dar Al Ber Society donated more than $11.6 million in local aid to 346,541 beneficiaries.


Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis
Updated 30 min 24 sec ago

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis

Tunisia’s Foreign Minister meets chargée d'affaires at US Embassy in Tunis
  • The meeting represented “positive and constructive dialogue that reflects the strength of bilateral relations”

DUBAI: Tunisia’s foreign minister discussed ways to rectify the democratic process in the country during a meeting with the chargée d'affaires at the US Embassy in Tunis on Monday. 
Othman Jerandi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Migration and Tunisians Abroad, met with Natasha Franceschi, chargée d'affaires at the US Embassy, to step up consultations between the two countries, Tunisia’s state news agency TAP reported. 
The meeting represented “positive and constructive dialogue that reflects the strength of bilateral relations,” the Foreign Affairs Department said in a statement.
Upcoming bilateral events, such as the Joint Military Commission, were also discussed at the meeting, according to the same statement.
During the meeting, Jerandi welcomed the ties between the two countries, while Franceschi stressed the US’ keenness to develop partnerships with Tunisia in all sectors.
Franceschi also presented America’s initiative to host the US-Africa Leaders Summit scheduled for Dec. 13-15 in Washington.


Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three

Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three
Updated 36 min 46 sec ago

Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three

Jordan police bust crystal meth lab in Amman, arrest three
  • Similar police operations were also undertaken in Zarqa, northeast of Amman

DUBAI: Three people were arrested after Jordanian police on Monday raided a house in East Amman that was being used as a crystal meth laboratory.

The raid was carried out after agents of the anti-narcotics department received a tip off.

The officers did not find the suspect in his home, but discovered and subsequently seized chemicals used for manufacturing methamphetamine.

The man was arrested later during a follow-up operation, where he also said he had an accomplice who worked with him to produce and sell the narcotics.

In a similar effort in Jordan’s campaign to crack down on the illegal drug trade, police raided a chalet west of Al-Balqa and arrested a man found in possession of marijuana and as well as a firearm on suspicion after he tried to flee.

Similar police operations were also undertaken in Zarqa, northeast of Amman, where suspects have been arrested while in possession of illegal drugs and narcotics.


Iran submits a ‘written response’ in nuclear deal talks

Iran submits a ‘written response’ in nuclear deal talks
Updated 16 August 2022

Iran submits a ‘written response’ in nuclear deal talks

Iran submits a ‘written response’ in nuclear deal talks
  • No details offered on the substance of Iran’s response
  • But Tehran suggested it still would not take the EU-mediated proposal

DUBAI: Iran said Tuesday it submitted a “written response” to what has been described as a final roadmap to restore its tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency offered no details on the substance of it response, but suggested that Tehran still wouldn’t take the European Union-mediated proposal, despite warnings there would be no more negotiations.
“The differences are on three issues, in which the United States has expressed its verbal flexibility in two cases, but it should be included in the text,” the IRNA report said. “The third issue is related to guaranteeing the continuation of (the deal), which depends on the realism of the United States.”
Tehran under hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi has repeatedly tried to blame Washington for the delay in reaching an accord. Monday was reported to have been a deadline for their response.
There was no immediate acknowledgment from the EU that Iran submitted its response. The EU has been the go-between in the indirect talks.
From Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US would share its own response to the EU.
“We do agree, however, with (the EU’s) fundamental point, and that is that what could be negotiated has been negotiated,” Price said.
He added that Iran had been making “unacceptable demands” going beyond the text of the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Iran drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
“If Iran wants these sanctions lifted, they will need to alter their underlying conduct,” Price said. “They will need to change the dangerous activities that gave rise to these sanctions in the first place.”