"It went on for a sustained period of time, five years"
Businessman Chauhan Yogendrasinh, aged 57, of Leicester, was jailed for eight years after he ran an £8.5 million money-laundering “empire”.
Leicester Crown Court heard the married father of two ran the scam under the front of a seemingly legitimate business, Rushi Investments Ltd, from a terraced property in Canon Street, Belgrave.
The “sophisticated operation” had so much criminal cash pouring in that Post Office vans were called three times a week to collect £25,000 in cash.
Yogendrasinh concealed his crimes by using genuine money transfer bureaux to move the cash, based on fake receipts from non-existent customers and using false invoices.
During the seven-week trial, it was heard that millions of pounds of “dirty money” were transferred to countries like India and Hong Kong.
Yogendrasinh was found guilty of conspiracy to convert criminal property between January 2011 and March 2016.
The prosecutor Michelle Heeley QC explained:
“Yogendrasinh played a leading role. There was involvement with others through pressure or influence.
“It went on for a sustained period of time, five years, from when he set up his own business in Leicester.”
It was originally alleged that £11 million had been laundered, but allowing for an estimated 20% of the business being legitimate, the offence related to around £8.5 million.
Judge Robert Brown told Yogendrasinh: “You’re were born in Gujarat, India, and educated to degree level; you have a science degree.
“You speak five languages and I’m satisfied you’re an intelligent man.”
Yogendrasinh arrived in the UK in 2001 and was granted political asylum in 2010.
While working for a business in Wembley, London, Yogendrasinh was introduced to money laundering by criminal acquaintances.
The offenders were jailed following two separate trials relating to amounts of £8 million and £80 million.
Judge Brown said: “You learnt how to run a money laundering operation from these men and set up your own business in Leicester, Rushi Investments in 2011.
“It was ostensibly a money transfer service but, in fact, it was a money laundering operation – although there were some legitimate transactions.
“The purpose of your business was to transfer money for criminals who gave you their stolen money.”
“The sums of money going through your business were very large indeed.
“They had no legitimate source and you had no credible explanation leaving the jury with an irresistible inference that it was criminal money.
“The evidence was clear and compelling, in my judgement.
“You were making it easier for criminals to get away with their crimes and making it harder for the authorities to trace cash stolen by criminals.”
Yogendrasinh’s employees, including his wife, had initially faced the money laundering charge. However, all have since been acquitted.
Judge Brown added: “You were in a leading role in the commission of this conspiracy, having set up and controlled Rushi Investments Ltd – everyone else did your bidding.
“I also think there was a degree of sophistication about your offending; you went to some lengths to ensure the money you received left the jurisdiction using other legitimate money transfer agencies.
“You were under nobody’s control when you were running Rushi Investments, it was your business, it was your empire.”
Judge Brown explained that 27,054 remittance slips were seized by the police from the businessman’s offices in Canon Street.
Officers examined 293 slips and found that 88% of them were fake.
Judge Brown accepted that Yogendrasinh had no previous convictions and had been a successful businessman in Gujarat and Kenya.
He went on to say that the businessman had “impressive references.”
In mitigation, Sailesh Mehta said: “He didn’t have lavish holidays, he went on two and one was provided by an insurance company.
“He’s had the same house since he came to Leicester and still has a mortgage on it.”
It was heard that two cars were worth a combined total of £7,000 and a personalised number plate cost approximately £400. Mr Mehta added:
“There was no extravagant lifestyle.”
Some of the recovered receipts related to legitimate transactions of locals sending money to their India-based families.
Mr Mehta said that his client became “ensnared” into running the scam after meeting others involved in a much larger operation.
Throughout the trial, Yogendrasinh denied any wrongdoing, telling the jury: “My company was genuine.”
On November 28, 2019, he was jailed for eight years. He was also banned from holding a company directorship for eight years.
Leicester Mercury reported that Chauhan Yogendrasinh faces a proceeds of crime hearing in 2020.