"Millions of pounds were laundered, benefiting criminals overseas."
Unemployed money launderer, Jamshed Bhatti, aged 60, ran a £3.5 million international laundering operation from his flat in the UK.
Bhatti who did not work and had not paid any income tax since 2006, was a major player in helping criminal launder dirty money.
He was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court and convicted for money laundering despite the fact he was not present at the hearing and is said to have fled the country to Pakistan.
Seen as a ‘highly trusted player’ in the laundering racket, hand-written records were found showing that nearly £3.5 million had been handled by Bhatti within a three month period before his property had been searched.
Over 1,500 records showed different amounts of cash being laundered ranging from £1,000 to £160,000. There was no accountability for where the money came from or for where it was sent.
During the search, for a man who claimed he was living on very little funds, over £50,000 in cash was found by police at his flat in Levenshulme, Manchester.
Bhatti had transferred vast sums of cash across a number of high street bank accounts in Manchester as part of his operation.
The trial heard that one of Bhatti’s schemes involved using legitimate payments of a real business without their knowledge and hijacking them to launder money.
During the investigation into his case by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Bhatti claimed the money belonged to his import and export business, called J&F Traders Limited, which was being run between the UK and Pakistan,
However, upon investigation, no records for such a business were found including no tax returns or VAT registration.
Bhatti then tried an alternative ploy saying that the money had come from abroad to be possibly used for a wedding or to be given as an investment to his son.
Before the trial, Bhatti absconded and is said to be in Pakistan.
During the trial, Judge Hilary Manley clarified that Bhatti has absolutely ‘no remotely credible explanation’ for the laundered cash and the bank records recovered from his flat.
Judge Manly was not going to give Bhatti the opportunity to return to the UK by adjourning the sentencing and instead jailed him for six-and-a-half years, convicting him of money laundering in his absence.
A warrant has been issued for Bhatti’s arrest.
In court, according to the Manchester Evening News, Judge Manley said:
“You were a highly trusted player in an international money laundering arrangement.”
“You held a vital managerial role. Millions of pounds were laundered, benefiting criminals overseas.
“Under your management, huge sums of criminally acquired money were transferred through and held in high street banks in Greater Manchester.
“You had no legitimate source of income. You had no remotely credible explanation for the cash, the ledgers or the massive amount of bank transfer and deposit slips found in your flat.
“You fled to Pakistan, from where you sought to persuade the court to adjourn your trial once again, and when that failed, you tried for a while to control the proceedings from overseas.
“The law catches up with people in the end, and the law will catch up with you.”
The assistant director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, Tony Capon said after the hearing:
“The amounts of money described in Bhatti’s ledgers are staggering and he resorted to concocting an imaginary company to try and explain his criminal activity.
“Bhatti will be jailed if he steps foot in the UK and we would appeal for anyone with information about his whereabouts to get in touch.
“People involved in money laundering help to fund the illegal activities of organised crime gangs. We will not hesitate to seize proceeds of crime and investigate anyone who may be involved.
“I would urge anyone with information about this type of crime or the whereabouts of Bhatti to report it to HMRC online, or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”