Student jailed for 18 months for laundering more than £84,000
A student who laundered thousands of pounds for a gangland criminal was snared after undercover detectives watched her deposit a bundle of cash an inch-and-a-half thick at a Post Office.
Xiaotong Huang was jailed for 18 months on Thursday at Stirling Sheriff Court, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said, after being found guilty of money laundering at the end of a six-day trial last month.
The 28-year-old, who arrived from China in 2019, had sums totalling £160,000 washed through four bank accounts belonging to her, prosecutors said, which the University of Stirling student used to buy designer label items and expensive wines as well as paying for her tuition fees.
Spending from one account alone totalled £12,479 and included items bought from Gucci, Burberry and Coach as well as £797 on goods from Harrods, the Crown Office said.
Huang also bought £6,900 worth of wine over two separate payments of £3,500 and £3,400 one week apart, as well as spending £480 on a Louis Vuitton bag, prosecutors said.
In March, she was convicted of the crime at Falkirk Sheriff Court, where jurors unanimously found her guilty of charges under proceeds of crime legislation.
They convicted her of laundering a total of £84,912, with the charge being aggravated because of her connection to serious and organised crime.
The money launderer had been in the UK on a temporary student visa, the Crown Office said, which allowed her to work a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time. But there was no record of HMRC activity, or any benefits being paid to her, with Huang having no visible income stream.
Financial specialists were drafted in to examine her accounts and they pieced together her life of crime, revealing how the money was transferred into those accounts by multiple third parties.
The Crown Office said one account showed a total of £153,071 being credited from cash deposits and third-party transfers, and another had £61,006.97 deposited between June 2019 and May 2021.
A further £58,014.03 flowed into another account in Huang’s name between June 2019 and May 2021, prosecutors said.
In total, the student spent £35,758 on the High Street and online between 2019 and 2022.
The operation began to unravel in April 2021 when undercover police officers were watching an individual suspected of high-level money laundering for a Scottish organised crime group dealing in illegal drugs, the Crown Office said.
Huang, who was wearing a cream coat with distinctive red sleeves and a mask over her face, was seen leaving the man’s Mercedes in Stirling carrying a brown paper bag.
Minutes later, the officers saw her with an inch-and-a-half thick bundle of cash from the bag, prosecutors said, and deposit £3,500 at the travel money counter at the Post Office at WH Smith in the Thistle Shopping Centre, Stirling.
On itemising the transactions in and out of the various accounts, the Crown Office said, the criminal intelligence analyst noted the accused moved money between accounts numerous times a day and in varying amounts.
She was arrested on April 21, 2021, at her home, where police officers identified the distinctive coat she wore draped over a chair, the Crown Office said.
She was found guilty on March 8 and on Thursday she was jailed for 18 months by Sheriff Keith O’Mahony.
After the sentencing, Kenny Donnelly, deputy crown agent in specialist casework at the Crown Office, said he hoped the sentence would be a deterrent to others.
“Money laundering is not a victimless crime and plays an integral role in a complex, large-scale operation which facilitates the criminal activity of others,” he said.
“I hope this conviction demonstrates the ability of police and prosecutors to investigate, prepare and prosecute serious and organised crime of this nature.”