London, Dec 1 (Press Release): Three men have been jailed for smuggling millions of pounds of criminal cash out of the UK.
Arturs Nespors, 30, and Alexksej Rybnikov, 42, both of no fixed address, and Marius Stancikas, 40, of Broad Street, Coventry, were part of an international organised crime gang involved in cigarette trafficking, drug smuggling and money laundering.
Today, 6 November 2019, they were jailed for a total of 12 years and nine months.
Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) were supported by West Midlands Police when they arrested the men earlier this year, during a coordinated Europe-wide operation aimed at dismantling the international crime network. During the operation HMRC recovered more than £1 million at a ‘cash safe house’ in Coventry and another £251,000 from the boot of a car in Manchester.
Polish, Lithuanian, Estonian and Spanish authorities carried out simultaneous raids at other target addresses, resulting in a further 18 arrests across Europe. In total more than 40 properties were searched, which led to seizures of eight million Euros, diamonds, gold bars, jewellery and luxury vehicles. A substantial quantity of illicit cigarettes and drugs were also recovered.
The organised crime gang is believed to have acquired an estimated 680 million Euros as a result of their criminal activities between 2017 and 2019.
HMRC joined law enforcement agencies across Europe in the co-ordinated operation, which was supported by Europol and Eurojust.
More than 450 police and customs officers, including police and special interventions units carried out raids targeting members of the criminal network on 15 May 2019.
HMRC led UK-based investigations into Nespors, Rybnikov and Stancikas, who were involved in moving millions of pounds of criminal money out of the UK.
The money is believed to have derived from the sale of illicit tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.
The trio used a house in Coventry as a hub for their criminal operation and smuggled large sums of cash out of the country hidden amongst clothes in shrink wrapped suitcases.
Nespors was arrested when HMRC and armed officers from West Midlands police entered the ‘cash safe house’ on Lucerne Close on 16 May 2019. A search of the house uncovered more than £1 million in cash and three money counting machines. There was also an open suitcase which had been partially filled with clothes and envelopes filled with cash.
Rybnikov was arrested just an hour before when he was seen leaving the premises.
Earlier in the day armed West Midlands police officers stopped a car occupied by Stancikas and another male, Agnius Sindaras, 43, of Lithuania, on Princess Road, Manchester. Both men were arrested and £251,000 of cash found in the boot of the car.
Nespors, Rybnikov and Stancikas admitted money laundering offences at Birmingham Crown Court on 26 July 2019.
They were sentenced at the same court today:
Nespors was sentenced to five years and three months in prison.Rybnikov was sentenced to five years and three months in prison.Stancikas was sentenced to two years and three months in prison.Sindaras was deported from the UK to Lithuania in May 2019 following his arrest.