PC convicted of gold smuggling

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The Independent Online
A police officer was yesterday found guilty of assisting her father, a former constable, in a multi-million pound gold smuggling operation.

Lucie Gilmore, 25, who acted as a courier in a scam that netted more than pounds 3m, burst into tears as she was convicted.

Gilmore and her father, Michael Gilmore, 53, were among a string of smugglers used by an Asian gang to collect three tons of high purity gold bars - worth about pounds 20m - from Belgium, Knightsbridge Crown Court was told.

The bullion, in bars worth pounds 8,000 each, was brought into Britain in cars at various channel ports. The VAT-free gold was then sold to an unsuspecting Asian community. A jeweller's shop in Handsworth, Birmingham, is thought to have been used as a front for the 18-month conspiracy, in which the smugglers made pounds 3.4m by charging customers Britain's full 17.5 per cent tax.

Lucie Gilmore, a probationary police constable, of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, and her father now face up to seven years in prison for conspiracy to evade VAT. She will be sentenced in four weeks, along with her fellow conspirator Surinder Kumar, 32, a Birmingham jeweller, who was found guilty on Tuesday.

The young officer's father, who admitted his part in smuggling bullion, is due to be sentenced tomorrow. Gilmore said she intended to appeal.

During her trial, the jury was told that she had always looked up to her father and in 1992 she was accepted as a probationary constable in the West Mercia force. However, she was hiding a criminal past.

In 1991, she decided to help her father, who turned to gold smuggling after his firm of insurance brokers became heavily in debt. She acted as a courier during at least four trips. By this time her father had already made 24 trips.

After buying the precious metal in Belgium, the conspirators collected it in Luxembourg, where no Value-Added Tax applies. A jeweller's shop in Birmingham, owned by Kumar and his brother Jeevan Kanda, is thought to have been used as a front for the gold. Kumar a "prolific courier" and a "trusted lieutenant" to his older brother, was arrested. Kanda, the "moving spirit" behind the operation, is still wanted after apparently fleeing to Dubai.

Customs investigators believed arrogance was the downfall of the pair. Gilmore had told a former boyfriend about her gold smuggling, but after he left her he threatened to expose her activities unless she repaid a pounds 3,000 loan. Confident he would not be believed, the Gilmores decided to called his bluff and reported the threat to police.

Unfortunately for them, Customs officers had already spent months investigating the activities of other couriers. But until the pair walked into their police station in August 1994, no one had suspected their involvement. Days later the two were arrested.