Property salesman jailed over money laundering

A man who tried to smuggle nearly £60,000 of cash out of the country in his underpants was jailed for four years today.

John Maurice, 68, a semi-retired property salesman, admitted almost £4 million of money laundering offences after an HM Revenue and Customs investigation.

A trained sniffer dog showed an interest in Maurice, from Barnstaple, North Devon, as he waited to board a ferry from Dover to France in June 2008.

When challenged he produced 63,000 euros and £2,600 sterling from his underwear.

The authorities were monitoring Maurice closely as he regularly took wads of cash - between £25,000 and £50,000 - at a time, to an exchange bureau and changed them into Euros.

When caught Maurice, of Bishop's Tawton, claimed he was dealing with the money on behalf of "clients" who wanted to buy furniture for Spanish properties.

He has never revealed the true nature of the criminal activity he was involved in, but by his plea to money laundering Maurice admitted that the money had come from a illicit source.

Sentencing Maurice at Canterbury Crown Court today, Judge Adele Williams branded him "a Jekyll and Hyde - respectable on the surface and dishonest conduct underneath".

Robert Alder, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HM Revenue and Customs said today: "Maurice claimed he was exchanging money on behalf of his clients who wished to purchase furniture for their Spanish properties.

"Once the exchange had taken place he would return the cash to his clients. Throughout our inquiry Maurice refused to disclose the identities of his clients and there was no evidence to support any of his claims.

"Today's sentence sends a clear message to those tempted to launder money that they are taking a serious risk."

During the investigation, codenamed Operation Agnail, the investigators found Maurice used a money exchange bureau in Worthing approximately 180 times between April 2005 and June 2008.

There he would exchange the large amounts of cash from sterling into Euros.

Once the exchange had taken place, he would travel to Dover and cross the channel.

Judge Williams told him: "You have been living a double life of Jekyll and Hyde, respectable on the surface and dishonest conduct underneath. You must have engaged in serious criminality. Were it not for your age, previous good character and health, your sentence would have been much longer.

"The Crown describe you as a 'professional courier and converter', with which I agree. I also commend the officers who conducted this detailed investigation with such skill."

Maurice, who had pleaded guilty to money laundering in January, may now face confiscation of assets is being sought.

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