A Chinese family will hand over London properties worth more than £1.6 million ($2.2m) after they were linked to dirty cash from drug deals.
Detectives followed a money trail to show that the two homes were linked to the takings of an Albanian drugs gang after the conviction of money launderer Fen Chen in 2017.
She was jailed for more than six years after being part of a gang that paid more than £1.8 million in criminal cash into high street banks over a two-week period.
The investigation revealed that she repeatedly put large sums of money through the accounts of a UK-based Chinese student, Shuyu Cao. He had received more than £800,000 in his accounts through banks across the country.
A search of his home uncovered a metal suitcase holding £60,000, prompting a new investigation into the source of the money. Officers also found photographs on his computer of bundles of money and two torn bank notes — a well-known device used by money launderers to match two parties to a deal.
Cao had lived in the UK since 2012 while his mother, Qian Wen, also couriered money into the UK to pay for his education and property, according to court papers.
He had claimed that the money in the suitcase was to buy property in Cyprus, while his mother claimed that another payment into his account was the proceeds of his grandmother selling her own body parts.
Cao told police: “My mum sends me money directly and other people pay money into my account … The cash at my address is not criminal property to my knowledge.”
Cao was never prosecuted but the UK’s National Crime Agency took action to seize the two properties which will now be sold.
One of them was a flat close to the Emirates stadium of Arsenal Football club, while a second house was in Kidbrooke, in south-east London. The NCA failed to secure three other properties and a bank account with more than £300,000 in it.
Stephen Brown, operations manager at the NCA, said: “We are pleased with the result of this case, which represents a great outcome for the Agency and £1.3 million returned to the public purse.
“The deposits into Cao’s accounts in this case were irregular, random, and came from all over the UK and the NCA’s case was that they bore all the classic hallmarks of money laundering.”