A Yorkshire gold dealer at the center of an alleged £266million money laundering operation used illegally acquired cash deposited in his NatWest bank account to buy the precious metal, which was then shipped to Dubai and beyond the reach of the British authorities, a criminal trial was said.
A jury at Leeds Crown Court, hearing one of Britain’s biggest money laundering prosecutions, was told the money was to be paid through Bradford-based Fowler Oldfield ‘to hide his true origins and give it a veneer of respectability” as part of a “very sophisticated money laundering scheme”.
Fowler Oldfield deposited up to £1million in cash on certain days into his NatWest account between January 2014 and September 2016, prosecutors say.
The money was transported to the premises of Fowler Oldfield in Yorkshire by couriers from Glasgow and Merseyside, who used plastic bags and duffel bags containing hundreds of thousands of pounds in cash which prosecutors say , stemmed from criminal activities.
Some couriers arrived with cash hidden in car door panels, in black trash bags or hidden in take-out boxes, according to the lawsuit. A courier used two toy boxes wrapped as birthday presents to hide cash.
“Legitimate businessmen do not bring cash in sports bags, hidden in the panels of vehicles,” said Nicholas Clarke QC, prosecutor.
The money was credited from Fowler Oldfield’s NatWest bank account to two Birmingham gold suppliers so the dealer could buy gold – which was then exported to Dubai, prosecutors say. A further £46million was transferred to an account in the name of Stunt & Co Ltd, a company owned by James Stunt, the former husband of socialite Petra Ecclestone, the trial heard.
Stunt is one of eight people who are on trial for one count of money laundering. All of the defendants, who also include five people linked to Fowler Oldfield, deny wrongdoing.
Prosecutors claimed during the trial on Wednesday that there were close ties between Fowler Oldfield and Stunt & Co. Gregory Frankel, a director of Fowler Oldfield, who is also charged in the lawsuit, became vice president of Stunt & Co. Frankel also received free accommodation in a London apartment and use of a Lamborghini provided by Stunt, according to the lawsuit.
Another defendant, Francesca Sota, then Stunt’s personal assistant, paid £313,000 in cash into Fowler Oldfield’s bank account at a central London bank branch on March 3, 2016, the jury heard.
Clarke claimed at trial that Stunt, although living in the United States at the time and not involved in gold buying, took a “hands-on” approach and “was very interested in the sums of daily money passing through and where he could get money”.
Stunt, 40, with Sota, 34, and Alexander Tulloch, 41, all from London; as well as Gregory Frankel, 44, from West Yorkshire; Daniel Rawson, 45, of Leeds, as well as Paul Miller, 45, of Wetherby, Heidi Buckler, 45 of Leeds and Bradford jeweler Haroon Rashid, 51, all deny money laundering. Stunt and Sota also deny one count of forgery. The trial continues.
The trial, which is expected to last four months, is continuing.