Neil Ayres jailed for money laundering, London

A money launderer has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison at Blackfriars Crown Court on Friday 18 February, following enquiries into his financial affairs after £95,000 was found hidden in a safe deposit box.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Proactive Money Laundering Team (PMLT) began an investigation into Neil Ayres, 35, following Operation Rize, which was an intelligence led operation that took place in June 2008, targeting criminals using safe deposit boxes to hide cash and criminal assets across London and the rest of the United Kingdom.

During a seven day trial, the jury heard how Ayres held a safe deposit box at the Hampstead Safe Depository, in North London. When it was opened, officers discovered that it contained £95,000 in cash.

The seized cash and two mobile phones belonging to Ayres were forensically examined and all items were found to be contaminated with extremely high levels of cocaine.

In court Ayres claimed that he had won the money by playing poker and that his personal cocaine use was the reason why the money was contaminated. Eventually he admitted that he had previously been involved in the supply of cocaine.

Police now believe that the money seized was made through his drug dealing activity and the profits were being hidden in the box which was opened in November 2007.

Ayres was arrested after he attended Barkingside police station by appointment on 18 September 2009 and his home address in Woodford Green, Essex, was subsequently searched.

He was convicted on 19 January 2011 of possessing the proceeds of crime (£95,000) under Section 329 of the Proceeds of Crime Act. He was today sentenced to three and half years in prison.

The cash has now been confiscated and will go back to the public purse.

Detective Chief Inspector Terri Nicholson, who heads the PMLT, said: "This case is the perfect example of the power of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) in the fight against serious crime.

"The use of POCA in this way is to be encouraged. Excellent detective work went into ensuring Ayres’ spurious story did not fool the jury.

"This is another brilliant result for the Economic and Specialist Crime Command and the Operation Rize team and will reinforce the message to those thinking of trying to hide their criminal assets; we will use all of the powers available to us to prevent you from profiting from crime – whatever that crime may be."

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