A 30-year-old woman has been jailed for a total of 34 months for money laundering offences worth more than £5 million.
Tara Hanlon of Pelham Court, Leeds, was arrested on 3 October 2020 as she attempted to board a flight to Dubai with over £1.9m in cash, concealed within five suitcases.
Ms Hanlon pleaded guilty at Isleworth Crown Court in June having previously admitted to three counts of removing criminal property relating to cash amounts. These were of £1.4m on 14 July, £1.1m on 10 August and £1m on 31 August 2020.
The court heard that when the 30-year-old was stopped by customs officials, she was travelling with a friend to Dubai on a “girls trip” and said she had five suitcases because she “wasn’t sure what to wear” whilst on holiday.
Border officials have said that the discovery was the largest individual cash seizure of 2020 at the UK border.
The money was found in vacuum-packed bundles which were hidden beneath coffee, apparently so as to prevent sniffer dogs from detecting the cash.
Initially, Ms Hanlon said in a statement to investigators that it was the first trip she had taken, she wasn’t being paid and that she was of the understanding that the trip was legal as the money would be declared in Dubai.
A search of the 30-year-old’s phone and inquiries with the airline, however, revealed otherwise and it appeared that she had made three previous visits as a courier. These took place in July and August 2020 and she was paid around £3,000 for each trip.
In a series of text messages, Ms Hanlon claimed that her job gave her “the perfect life,” saying: “Perfect life, a few days in the sun and a few at home.”
She also bragged about her job saying: “Three big ones… with this wage and the next my debts go bye.”
The National Crime Agency (NCA) discovered that Ms Hanlon had indeed declared she was carrying cash upon each arrival, but that the amount she declared totaled £3.5m.
Stephen Grattage, who was defending Ms Hanlon, claimed that she was vulnerable at the time of the offences as they came when she had been furloughed from her job and shortly after the sudden death of her mother in March.
Judge Karen Holt, however, disagreed, saying: “Although you were vulnerable at the time, I don’t find that you have been exploited and find that you knew what you were doing.”
NCA senior investigating officer, Ian Truby said: “Tara Hanlon thought that she was going to be living a jet-set lifestyle, instead she is now serving a prison sentence.
“I hope her story is a cautionary one for others who would consider doing the same. Stopping the flow of illicit cash is a priority for the NCA and our partners.”