No jail for £9m ‘sunshine and lollipops’ Dubai dirty money courier Paige Henry, 26

A Birmingham courier who smuggled more than £9 million of dirty money out of Britain as part of a £100 million money laundering racket has avoided jail. The cash - said to have largely been drug money - was taken in suitcases aboard flights to the UAE in more than 80 trips between November 2019 and October 2020.

Paige Henry, 26, of Ravenhurst Road in Harborne, was among those who travelled with the cases, which routinely contained £500,00 and were sprayed with coffee or air fresheners in an effort to prevent them being found by sniffer dogs. The couriers were paid between £3,000-5,000 for each trip and were booked in business class seats due to the extra luggage allowance.

The group communicated on WhatsApp chats including one titled ’Sunshine and lollipops’. Henry made four trips to Dubai in August and September 2020, one alone and three with other couriers, carrying a total of 24 suitcases containing £9.05 million.

READ MORE: City woman and 11 others charged with smuggling millions in criminal cash

She was among six more members of the group sentenced - bringing the total to 17 - following an investigation by the National Crime Agency. The network collected cash from criminal groups around the UK and took it to counting houses that were rented apartments in central London.

Adrian Searle, director of the National Economic Crime Centre in the National Crime Agency, said: “Money laundering fuels the global drugs trade, human trafficking, fraud, ransomware and many other crimes that cause misery and ruin lives. Today is an important step in removing one transnational criminal gang responsible for laundering at least £100 million.

“Gangs such as this smuggle cash on behalf of international controller networks – apex criminals who deploy sophisticated techniques to move and conceal the proceeds of crime in eye watering volumes and, sometimes, at the click of a button. The world’s most dangerous organised criminals and corrupt elites cannot operate effectively without them.

“With 17 people sentenced, this case highlights the scale and level of organisation money launderers will deploy to commit their crimes. The NCA is committed to targeting these gangs and working with our partners across the globe to reduce the threat from all forms of illicit finance.”

The gang was overseen by ringleader Abdullah Alfalasi, 48 and also included Samantha Horst, 51, from Wendover Road, Staines-upon-Thames, Craig Bramall, 42, from Abram, Wigan, Bridget Taylor, 44, from Manor Place, Edinburgh, Ali Al-Nawab, 40, from The Vale, Golders Green, London and Mehdi Amrollahbibiyouki, 41, of Long Lane, Finchley, London, who have all been sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court.

Horst, who was arrested following NCA raids in May 2021, made three trips to Dubai between August and September 2020, checking in 18 suitcases containing £6.8 million. Bramall removed an estimated £1.3 million in three suitcases during the one trip he made in September 2020.

Taylor made the journey with another traveller in September 2020, taking five suitcases containing £2 million. She also transported £1.3 million in three suitcases in July of that year.

Amrollahbibiyouki, who was arrested at his home in April 2022, made three trips to Dubai in February and March 2020, checking in 12 suitcases containing £4.3 million. Evidence on his phones revealed he had also been responsible for counting and packaging criminal cash totalling £11.1 million for eight trips made by other couriers, including the ones he made himself.

Al-Nawab was arrested in May 2022 as he was leaving the UK to travel to Turkey. He made two journeys in March 2020, checking in nine suitcases containing £3.2 million.

NCA senior investigating officer Ian Truby said: “This was cash smuggling on a breathtaking scale. Although many of the couriers regarded these trips as paid for adventures in the sun, the stark reality is this cash was generated from real-world harm.

“Profits are often re-invested into criminal activities such as drug trafficking, which fuels violence and insecurity in the UK and across the world. This case, one of the largest of its kind ever investigated by the NCA, demonstrates our commitment to targeting the criminal networks involved in international money laundering.”

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Horst was sentenced to 24 months, suspended for two years, Taylor to 21 months, suspended for two years and Bramall to 17 months, suspended for two years. Henry was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years. on March 15 at Isleworth Crown Court.

Al-Nawab was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years and Amrollahbibiyouki was sentenced to four years on Friday, April 26. Ringleader Alfalasi, of Villa No 31, Dubai, UAE was jailed for nine years and seven months in July 2022.