Tayside and Central Scotland

Three jailed over Dundee 'cuckoo smurfing' cash scam

Money bag and cash counter Image copyright Crown Office
Image caption Police found a bag containing £75,000 in cash and a money counter at Hameed's Dundee flat

Three men convicted of a money laundering scam known as "cuckoo smurfing" have been jailed for a total of almost 10 years.

Muhammed Hameed, Saleem Shikari and Shahid Aslam used the complicated scheme to hide almost £700,000 of money belonging to criminal gangs.

After being caught by police in Dundee in 2013, the trio admitted charges under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Hameed was jailed for five-and-a-half years, and Shikari and Aslam for two.

The scheme involves replacing legitimate cash intended for bank transfers overseas with "dirty" money.

Police launched Operation Confab to catch Hameed and his associates, and caught them with a money counter and a plastic bag stuffed with £75,000 in banknotes at the 32-year-old's flat in Dundee.

Prosecutors had watched the shopkeeper and his accomplices making "multiple cash deposits" of "significant sums of money" at city banks "on an regular, almost daily basis".

Why is it called cuckoo smurfing?

The term "cuckoo smurfing" is used to describe a certain type of money laundering.

Cuckoo refers to the fact those involved pay sums of money into accounts of other unsuspecting individuals.

This is likened to the way a cuckoo will lay its eggs in the nests of other species of birds.

Smurfing refers to paying multiple amounts of cash into a variety of accounts.

Detectives built up financial profiles of the men, concluding that "no legitimate source for the funds deposited" could be found, and that the £75,000 in cash seized belonged to an unknown criminal group.

The High Court in Glasgow was told the group had effectively laundered £672,382 on behalf of Scottish gangs.

Prosecutors said Mr Hameed carried out an "organisational role", while his uncle Shikari, 52, and worker Aslam, 36, played "lesser but still significant" parts in the offence.

Sentencing, Sheriff Johanna Johnston QC told Hameed: "You became involved in a sophisticated scheme. A large amount of money over a relatively long period of time was laundered.

"This was done through a network of contacts who provided you with details of accounts.

"It also involved innocent third parties who unwittingly had their confidential bank details used and passed on to others."

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