Police have urged people not to use unlicensed currency exchanges after they were used to launder £8.5m for London’s criminal gangs.
The warning came after four gangsters were jailed for 15 years after tricking Chinese students into giving them access to their bank accounts.
Jie Huang, 25, Wei Han, 36, Adam Fuller, 20, and Wengi Li, 26, claimed to offer better exchange rates for converting the students’ university fees into pound Sterling.
Ringleader Han was jailed for seven years after all admitted conspiracy to launder at Southwark Crown Court.
A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: “Part of Han’s criminal activity involved targeting innocent Chinese students and tricking them into believing he could provide a better exchange rate when they converted their university fees into British currency.
“He would then use their bank accounts to clear the criminal cash he was laundering.
“Although the offences in which the cash came from remain unknown, officers believe the cash seized originated from criminality or was intended for criminal purpose.
“Throughout the course of the investigation, detectives identified £3.7 million of bank deposits and designer retail spend linked to the laundering conspiracy from July 2017.”
Detective Constable Keith McCormack, from the Met’s Proactive Money Laundering Team, said: “This was an organised operation laundering huge amounts of criminal cash for multiple third party criminal gangs.
“Those convicted targeted innocent students who unwittingly supported their criminal network. I hope this case serves as a reminder to the public to not be tempted to use unlicensed money exchange services.
“This type of criminality will not be tolerated and the group will now face justice for the part they played in this organised crime.”
The scam was foiled after plain-clothed police watched Fuller, of Coventry, West Midlands, pass two bags of cash to Huang, of Harlow, Essex, on January 18.
They were arrested after getting into a car together and police found £500,000 of cash in the boot when they parked outside a house in a wealthy area near Hyde Park.
They caught Han, of Knightsbridge, west London, burning financial paperwork and arrested him, seizing expensive watches and jewellery from the address.
A pair of Bentley and Maserati cars were also found at the house’s garage.
The three were charged and detectives later arrested Li, of south east London, after she took control of the gang’s cash on February 21.
The foursome were sentenced last Friday.
By Berny Torre