A MAN has been handed a suspended prison sentence after being caught by cops carrying out a money-laundering probe.
Zaheer Ahmed (32), of Renishaw Avenue, Broom, was arrested after police found he had almost £12,000 in a sports bag as he met another man, 38-year-old Riyaz Atcha.
Bolton Crown Court heard that Revenue and Customs officers observed the BMW being driven by Ahmed, parking up in Bolton, Greater Manchester, on May 13 last year.
Mr Brian McKenna, prosecuting, told how, ten minutes later, a Toyota Avensis, driven by Atcha, pulled up behind the vehicle.
Atcha’s two children were in the rear passenger seats.
Ahmed got out of his car, took a JD Sports bag from the boot of the vehicle and climbed into the front passenger seat of the Avensis.
Officers watching them then arrested both men on suspicion of money laundering.
A total of £11,700 was found in the JD Sports bag in the front passenger well and officers recovered a further £80,230 stashed in bags in the rear passenger footwell, below where the children were sitting
Ahmed had met Atcha with a view to collecting £15,000 from him, knowing it represented the proceeds of crime, the court heard.
A mobile phone found on Atcha contained a photograph of a £20 and a serial number, which the prosecution allege was a means of the two men establishing contact.
Atcha, of Shepley Avenue, Bolton, and Ahmed both pleaded guilty to money laundering offences but refused to reveal the source of the cash.
Both men made no comment when arrested, but Atcha then claimed he did not know how much money was in his car and he did not know or suspect that it was the proceeds of crime.
The mobile phone found on Atcha also contained text messages to a person named Marky Mark from an individual called Smart mentioning cash sums and directing delivery arrangements.
Mr Ben Morris, for Atcha, said he was a father-of three, had degree in biomedical science and had ambitions to become a teacher but circumstances meant he had to earn a living at a car wash.
He appealed to the judge not to jail Atcha, adding: “There's a school of thought that everyone deserves a chance in life.”
Upkar Bahia, mitigating for Ahmed, said he ran a small business sourcing raw materials, but was owed £15,000 and he agreed to the “unorthodox” method of payment, driving to Bolton to collect the cash.
“Quite foolishly, he accepted this course of action,” said Mr Bahia.
“The offer was put to him to collect the money in this manner.
“He was caught between a rock and a hard place.
“He accepts that he knew that things were not right. He knows that he made a mistake and that he turned a blind eye.”
Ahmed, who was also of previous good character, was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for two years and must complete 160 hours unpaid work
Atcha was sentenced to 16 months in prison, suspended for two years plus 275 hours unpaid work,
Richard Wentel, Assistant Director, of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs Fraud Investigation Service, welcomed the convictions.
He said: “These two were caught with bags full of cash and could offer no explanation at all for where it came from.
“They even brought children along to make their meeting look less conspicuous.
"Attempts to launder criminal cash are treated very seriously by HMRC.”
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