London carpet shop used in Iranian money-laundering operation

Asghar Gheshalghian, 48, acted as a middleman, accepting payments from migrants then releasing the money to criminal gangs

Watch the moment an Iranian money-launderer is arrested in the UK

Watch the moment an Iranian money-launderer is arrested in the UK
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An Iranian man has been convicted of using a carpet business as a front for a money-laundering operation linked to small boats.

Asghar Gheshalghian, 48, acted as a trusted middleman, accepting payments from migrants or their families, according to the UK’s National Crime Agency.

He then released money to the criminal gangs following the completion of their journeys to the UK, charging a commission at the same time.

Phone evidence showed links with at least eight Iranian migrants who later arrived in the UK by boat or lorry and claimed asylum.

Gheshalghian also ran an unregistered money services business from an office block in Wood Green, North London, as part of a network of bankers transferring money using the hawala system.

His conviction comes after Hewa Rahimpur, who also acted as a hawala banker for people-trafficking gangs and smuggled 10,000 migrants across the English Channel in small boats, earning up to £260,000 ($329,650) per trip, was sentenced to 11 years in a Belgian jail.

Following a two-year investigation by the NCA, the UK equivalent of the FBI, Gheshalghian was arrested in February 2021 with footage showing the moment police walked into his office and handcuffed him.

After his arrest, the NCA searched his business premises, a storage lock-up and his home in East Ham, seizing about £50,000 in cash. Officers also recovered ledgers outlining transactions, while financial investigators traced £1.6 million in payments into his bank accounts.

NCA branch commander Mark Howes said disrupting and dismantling people-smuggling gangs by their financial flows through agents such as Gheshalghian was a priority for the NCA.

“By his own admission Asghar Gheshalghian was trusted by organised crime gangs to handle their payments and launder the money they made through organising dangerous Channel boat and lorry crossings,” said Mr Howes.

“In doing so he enabled their criminality and happily took a cut from the profits they made from it. Crossing the Channel illegally in boats or lorries is extremely dangerous, sadly in recent days and weeks we have seen it can have fatal consequences.”

Evidence was also obtained from an ITV documentary in which undercover reporters approached a people smuggler in northern France, who discussed sending money through a broker called “Mr G” – Gheshalghian.

After a two-week trial at Southwark Crown Court in London, Gheshalghian was found guilty of five counts of money laundering and facilitating illegal immigration. He will be sentenced on January 24.

Updated: January 18, 2024, 8:48 PM