Sunderland financial adviser laundered £9.5million

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A CROOK who was part of a gang that conspired to launder £9.5million, stolen 11 years ago from a German bank, has been jailed.

Anthony Heald was one of four men who have been put behind bars for the multimillion-pound money laundering plot.

The financial adviser, originally from Hendon, Sunderland, and other gang members believed they could avoid being traced by using a tangled web of financial transactions across the globe.

The organised criminals used offshore companies controlled by trusted associates and offshore banks in jurisdictions, including the Channel Islands and Cyprus to hide their trail. They then transferred the cash to the UK.

But an in-depth financial probe led the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) to Matthew Holmes and Donald Somers, who stole the cash while working for Commerzbank in Germany.

Both men were convicted in Germany six years ago but investigators were unable to trace the cash.

Soca discovered another bank employee, Leigh Greest, had recruited a specialist criminal money-laundering group headed by Herbert Austin to try to hide the money trail.

Austin and co-conspirators Raymond Jewitt and Heald had created an international system to receive and then get rid of the stolen money, which was eventually transferred to accounts of Equity Holdings and Investments Limited and Westfield Corporation Limited, in the UK.

Now Heald, who moved to Boldon before fleeing the country in the 90s, has been jailed for three years.

Austin was also put behind bars for eight years, Greest for two years, and Jewitt for five years.

Soca deputy director Andy Sellers said: “The world of money laundering may seem a bit removed from reality but this group was causing real damage on the ground.

“Without groups like those run by Herbert Austin, the criminals who profit from drugs, weapons and people trafficking can’t stay in business.

“Tangled money trails are no deterrent for Soca’s investigators. They are tenacious and the sentences handed out today reflect their determination to pursue criminal profits right to the end of the line.”

To date, the equivalent of about £2.78million of assets have been frozen in the UK, with more cash being frozen in Spain, Portugal and Australia.

Work to identify further assets held by the group is ongoing.

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