A British woman was told to expect a jail sentence after being caught with suitcases stuffed with £1.9 million ($2.6m) in cash as she prepared to board a flight to Dubai.
Tara Hanlon, 30, of Leeds, northern England, admitted to carrying a total of £3.6m in criminal cash on three trips to the UAE in the summer of 2020. She was stopped with her largest stash of banknotes on her fourth and final trip in October last year.
Security officials said the find at Heathrow Airport, London, was the largest individual cash seizure at the UK border in 2020. It sparked a broader investigation that led to eight others being arrested over a suspected £50m international money-laundering racket.
Hanlon, who worked as a recruiter before her arrest, was told by a judge to bring a bag with her possessions and to expect a prison term when she is sentenced on July 26 for money laundering. She admitted four charges related to the three trips she made and the final attempt, when she was caught.
Appearing at a London court via video link, Hanlon was told by judge Giles Curtis-Raleigh: "Obviously, it will be a prison sentence. You must be ready for that – bring a bag.”
He granted bail but warned that Hanlon her punishment would be more severe if she failed to turn up for her sentencing hearing.
Investigators believe Hanlon was part of a wider network of couriers who travel regularly between the UK and Dubai with cash stashed in their luggage. The money mules are thought to be paid several thousand pounds for each trip they make.
Seven months after Hanlon’s arrest, police arrested three men and five women in raids across England.
They had already arrested and convicted Zdenek Kamaryt, 38, a Czech man who was found at Heathrow with £1.3m in cash vacuum-packed in three suitcases.
Kamaryt admitting money laundering but refused to tell authorities who gave him the cash and where he planned to take it, and was sentenced to two years in prison.
"Cash is the lifeblood of organised crime and Tara Hanlon was heavily involved in moving several million pounds out of the country," said Ian Truby, a senior officer at the National Crime Agency.
"We are determined to do all we can to stop that flow of illicit finance and disrupt the criminal networks involved in money laundering."