Three men have been jailed for smuggling over £7 million cash on over 80 flights from the UK to multiple destinations across Europe.
Two Albanian brothers organised travel for four others who acted as couriers by carrying large amounts of cash in their luggage. Over 80 trips were made by the group between November 2016 and January 2018 to countries including Belgium and Greece for onward transportation to Albania.
Gjelosh Kolicaj, 37, and Jak Kolicaj, 47, drove the couriers to the airport and waited until they had checked in the suitcase before leaving.
Airline records showed that the brothers also made similar journeys to Europe, taking bags on the outbound flight and returning to the UK empty-handed.
On two occasions, one of the brothers travelled on the same flight as a courier from Stansted to Edinburgh. The courier then travelled onwards to Brussels, but Kolicaj returned to a UK airport.
On September 5 2017, £180,000 was seized from Faton Syberi as he attempted to travel to Thessaloniki from Stansted airport. Cash was found wrapped in brown packaging in a plastic carrier bag, concealed in a second, inner suitcase.
On October 7 2017, £100,000 was seized from Dumitru Tanase at Gatwick airport who was also due to fly to Thessaloniki.
Gjelosh Kolicaj and Faton Syberi both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to remove criminal property from the UK.
After a month-long trial at Kingston Crown Court in September, Jak Kolicaj was found guilty of conspiracy to remove criminal property from the UK. Dumitru Tanase also stood trial and was acquitted.
Jak Kolicaj, Gjelosh Kolicaj and Faton Syberi were sentenced on 19 December to eight years, six years, and two years and five months respectively.
NCA Branch Commander Aaron Chappell said: “This group made a significant number of journeys out of the UK with large amounts of cash destined for Albania.
“Organised crime groups rely on money launderers like these men, to benefit from their crime and re-invest in further criminality.
“Disrupting the flow of illicit money is a priority for the NCA and by removing launderers from the chain we significantly inhibit the illegal activity of a much wider criminal network.”