Five men working for a haulage company have been convicted for their part in a £100 million money laundering scam.
Marcus Hughes, a senior manager at Genesis 2014 (Ltd) UK, and two of the firm’s drivers, Nicholas Fern, 51, and 25-year-old Damion Morgan, were involved in transporting huge sums of criminal cash around the UK and further afield.
A court heard their colleagues Liam Bailey and Leon Woolley, who both worked as transport planners for the firm, were also involved along with Simon Davies, a business associate of Hughes.
But the Regional Organised Crime Unit for the West Midlands became aware Hughes, 52, was using an encrypted network phone, known as Encrochat, to communicate with a man in Dubai, Craig Johnson, a convicted fraudster.
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 Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the total amount of cash involved was between £100 million and £150 million depending on the size of the loads for each journey, Stoke-on-Trent Live reports.
The court heard the French authorities had broken into the Encrochat network and reported activity to the British authorities. On March 26 2021, two Genesis vans driven by Fern and Morgan were stopped separately, each containing substantial bags of cash.
The combined total involved around £700,000. Hughes was arrested the same day and a further £60,000 in cash recovered from his home in Cheadle, Staffordshire.
The court heard 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trafficking and VAT fraud – also should not have been running a haulage business because his operator’s licence had been revoked for five years in 2018.
Woolley and Bailey worked in the office in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, and Davies was involved in directing the other defendants to transfer the cash proceeds of criminality.
Hughes, Woolley, aged 43, and from Meir, Stoke-on-Trent; Fern, of Stafford; Morgan, from Meir; Bailey, aged 22, and of no fixed address; and Davies, aged 52, and from Leek, Staffordshire, were convicted of conspiracy to launder money.
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, said: “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.”