Leicestershire men jailed for trying to launder £2 million of university cash
Three Leicestershire men have been jailed for being part of a gang who conspired to launder more than £2 million of university cash.
The group of fraudsters tried to use a network of bank accounts to launder cash from the University of Sussex in 2010.
Members of the gang masqueraded as a Manchester construction company and were given a contract to build new student accommodation on behalf of the university.
They forged an invoice and when the money was transferred they made attempts to split the £2 million into smaller concealed amounts via transactions involving a number of other bank accounts.
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The accounts were controlled by Gurdip Singh (37), formerly of Spencefield Lane, Evington, Leicester, who was arrested in November 2010, and charged with arranging to launder money.
He admitted the charge in December 2012 and was given a three year and 10 month jail term at a sentencing hearing at Nottingham Crown Court.
Four other men were also arrested and charged with arranging to launder money.
Hamel Bakrania (36), Dennis Francis (50), Innocent Ohazurume (50) and Andrew Wormstone (43) denied having been involved but were found guilty following a trial at Leicester Crown Court earlier this month.
Bakrania , of Campbell Avenue, Rushey Mead, Leicester, was jailed for three and a half years, while Francis, of King Edward Road, Loughborough and Ohazurume, of Martham Close, London were each jailed for three years.
Wormstone, of Ashworth Road, Pontefract, was jailed for two and a half years and will now be struck off from practicing as a solicitor.
Singh’s fake account was discovered by Sussex Police’s Money Laundering Investigation Team and the East Midlands Regional Asset Recovery Team (RART) following a joint investigation codenamed Operation Theta.
The account was immediately frozen and almost all the money transferred out of the reach of the defendants, who had been able to access just £20,000.
Singh and Bakrania made repeated attempts to persuade the bank to release the funds, and telephone records showed frequent correspondence between them and Francis and Ohazurume.
It is believed that another man, who has not been traced, was also involved in the plot.
Having failed to convince the bank that the cash was obtained legitimately, Singh and Bakrania enlisted Wormstone, a Leeds-based solicitor, who sent documents to the bank which purported to show that Singh and Bakrania were clients of his and that he was acting on their behalf in high value land deals. None of those deals existed.
Following the sentencing, Detective Inspector Nick Allwood, of the East Midlands Regional Asset Recovery Team, said: “These dishonest individuals were driven by greed and opportunity. They were involved in a thoroughly-planned and highly-organised criminal operation at a nationwide level.
“I have no doubt that had the £2 million fraud not been identified and the stolen funds secured as quickly as it was it would have been transferred out of the country within days.
“Asset confiscation proceedings will now be pursued to ensure the benefit from this crime is recovered.”
Singh was also given a consecutive sentence of three years and nine months after admitting offences relating to an unconnected fraudulent property investment scheme.
He was also given a concurrent sentence of two years and eight months for pleading guilty to his involvement in the manufacture of counterfeit designer clothing items.