A taxi driver who was caught out for being involved in a £2million money laundering racket has been jailed after being found with £250,000 on the back seat of his car.
Authorities found the cash in a bag on the back seat of Waqas Ilyas’ Skoda when they swooped in April, 2015, the Manchester Evening News reports.
Investigators then uncovered another £36,435 hidden under his mattress at his Manchester home and a ledger which detailed a month of dodgy transactions worth a huge £1.7million.
Ilyas, 35, and his partner Nazia Ghafar, 31, a saleswoman, were arrested and claimed the cash was linked to the ‘hawala’ alternative money transfer system.
Investigators found the cash in a bag on the back seat of Waqas Ilyas’ Skoda
The system is used by people without a bank account to transfer cash, particularly in the Middle East, Africa and Indian subcontinent.
As it is unregulated in many jurisdictions, it is also used to launder criminal cash.
Ilyas and his partner at first denied the crime but changed their pleas on the eve of a trial when faced with overwhelming evidence.
Following months of investigation under the codename Operation Katowice, officials from HM Revenue and Customs swooped on Ilyas’ 2005-registered Skoda Octavia, only worth about £3,000, and found a bag stuffed with £248,880 in cash on the back seat.
They carried out another search at the home he shared with Ghafar in Melville Road in Stretford and they found a further £36,435 hidden under their mattress in a JD Sports carrier bag.
Also uncovered was a ‘ledger book’ which listed transactions totalling £1.7million covering a one month period.
The pair had initially denied money laundering under the Proceeds of Crime Act but they changed their pleas on the eve of their trial at Manchester Crown Court.
And they didn’t challenge the seizure of the cash.
Ilyas was jailed for four years while Ghafar was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence.
The investigation did not establish which crime – for instance drug dealing or tax fraud – had generated the criminal cash.
Following the hearing, Richard Wentel, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: “This couple realised their weak explanations would not stand up in court and finally admitted their crimes.
“HMRC will not tolerate this illegal economy. If there is no legitimate reason for bundles of cash like this we will seize it – explain it or lose it.
“Crime doesn’t pay and we will always target money laundering.
“I would urge anyone who has information about this type of activity or witnesses suspicious large cash transactions to call the 24-hour Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”