UK police seize gold bars worth £650,000 at Heathrow Airport

National Crime Agency says they are linked to an international money laundering network

The UK's National Crime Agency has stopped 15 gold bars from being smuggled to India from Heathrow Airport. Reuters
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British police have seized 15 gold bars worth £650,000 ($870,890) from a woman trying to take them from Heathrow Airport to India.

Officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) worked with officials in India to prove the woman's claim that they were to be taken to a jewellers in India was false.

The NCA said they are linked to an international money laundering network based in Europe.

“Gold is an attractive commodity for criminals to use to move money because relatively small amounts can have a high value,” Commander Andy Noyes of the NCA said.

“Our investigation pointed to these gold bars belonging to a criminal money laundering network active in both Europe and Asia.

“We think they were attempting to move them through London to try and disguise their routing, and avoid the attentions of Indian law enforcement upon arrival there.”

The investigation was launched after Border Force officials stopped the woman, a Singaporean, at Heathrow Airport in March 2020 after she arrived on a flight from Singapore.

The woman was transiting through the airport to catch a plane to Chennai, India, and Border Force officers found the bars in her hand luggage.

She initially told NCA investigators she was taking the bars from a jeweller in Singapore to another jeweller in India.

However, she had no explanation for her strange routing, officials said.

The gold was seized as suspected proceeds of crime, and the woman was allowed to continue on her journey.

“NCA investigators worked with Indian partners to disprove the story given to officers by the woman carrying the gold bars, and show that on the balance of probabilities they were proceeds of crime,” Commander Noyes said.

“Working with partners like Border Force we are determined to do all we can to disrupt the flow of illicit money coming through the UK.”

Further enquiries by the NCA revealed invoices she was carrying for the gold were fake, and the Chennai jeweller did not exist.

The NCA has been awarded forfeiture of the bars under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Updated: January 31, 2022, 4:00 PM