Drivers and manager at Stoke-on-Trent haulier guilty of helping to launder over £100 million in cash
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Six defendants, including a senior manager and two drivers of a road haulage business, have been found guilty of running a large-scale money laundering operation involving in excess of £100 million in cash.
The Crown Prosecution Service writes that Marcus Justin Hughes, the effective operator haulage company Genesis 2014 (Ltd) UK, was convicted on Friday at the Crown Court of one count of conspiracy to launder cash together along with Leon Woolley, a transport planner at the same firm.
Nicholas Fern and Damion Morgan, drivers working for Hughes, were also convicted of a single count of conspiracy to launder cash over a period of months.
In addition, Liam Bailey, a further transport planner at the firm and Simon Davies, a business associate of Hughes, were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to launder money.
The Crown Prosecution Service states that the Regional Organised Crime Unit for the West Midlands became aware of a criminal operation to launder cash through a haulage company, Genesis 2014 (UK) Ltd. Mr Hughes used an encrypted network phone, known as Encrochat, to communicate with a man in Dubai, Craig Johnson, a convicted fraudster from Stoke on Trent.
“They agreed that large sums of cash would be collected at various places in the UK and elsewhere, on a regular basis, with the intention of transporting the cash to London where it could be transferred onwards and legitimised. The scale of cash involved, the lack of any explanation for its provenance and the surrounding circumstances, provided an irresistible inference that the cash was the proceeds of criminality. The total amount of cash at issue was between £100 million and £150 million depending on the size of the loads for each journey,” says the Crown Prosecution Service.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service, the French authorities had broken into the Encrochat network and reported activity to the British authorities. On 26 March 2021, two Genesis vans driven by Fern and Morgan were stopped separately, each containing substantial bags of cash. The combined total involved around £700k. Hughes was arrested the same day and a further £60k in cash recovered from his home. Extensive phone content indicated the scale and duration of the operation and established that Hughes had held the Encrochat phone in 2020. In total, it is estimated the laundering operation involved in excess of £100 million in cash.
Hughes, who had previously been convicted of drug trafficking and VAT fraud, also should not have been running a haulage business because his operator’s license had been revoked for 5 years in 2018.
Leon Woolley and Liam Bailey worked in the office at Genesis Ltd and Simon Davies was a business associate of Hughes, also involved in directing other defendants to transfer the cash proceeds of criminality.
Commenting on the case, Jonathan Kelleher of the Crown Prosecution Service said:
“The defendants were involved in the wholesale haulage of huge quantities of criminal cash, totalling in excess of £100 million. They were an essential distribution part of the criminal network, transferring the cash proceeds of criminal activity for the wider benefit of organised criminals, as well as their own gain.
„The use of an encrypted Encrochat phone and the communication with criminals in Dubai illustrate the sophisticated methods increasingly used by organised networks, operating across the world.
“The combined efforts of the Regional Organised Crime Unit for the West Midlands, CPS Serious Economic Organised Crime and International Directorate and instructed counsel, have successfully disrupted this distribution element of the criminal network.
“The CPS Proceeds of Crime Division will now pursue the defendants to strip them of their own gains from their involvement in organised crime.”
Detective Inspector Jonathan Jones of the Regional Organised Crime Unit for the West Midlands, added:
“These men were part of a nationally significant Organised Crime Group offering professional money laundering services to criminals up and down the country, and beyond. Their convictions and sentences will be a warning to deter others from involvement in money laundering which is as abhorrent as the crimes that generate the cash in the first place. Close cooperation and tireless effort from the outset between the police, CPS Serious Economic Organised Crime and International Directorate and instructed counsel was the key to success in this case.
‘’£701,685.75 has already been forfeited in civil proceedings from this OCG with half of this returning to Staffordshire Police via the Home Office Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme to contribute to fighting crime in the county.’’