Bromley mum who admitted part in £1.5million money laundering ring avoids jail
PUBLISHED: 17:03 08 April 2019
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A Bromley mother who was part of an organised crime gang that used foreign students' bank accounts to launder millions of pounds has been spared jail.
Rongzhu Wei was part of an eight-strong group who ran the UK-wide network, with cash delivered in suitcases to a house in east London, before being deposited in 460 different bank accounts.
The 33-year-old mother-of-four, of Downham Way, wept as she was given a two-year suspended sentence at Southwark Crown Court on Monday, April 8.
The court heard that almost £100,000 in cash was discovered at two addresses linked to the defendant, including money found under the stairs and in a handbag.
Wei, who pleaded guilty on February 15 to one charge of conspiracy to conceal, convert, disguise, transfer or remove criminal property, contrary to Section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977, listened to the sentencing through an interpreter speaking in Mandarin.
Judge Deborah Taylor said it was a “large-scale, sophisticated conspiracy to launder cash which was the proceeds of crime”.
Some £1.5 million had been deposited in bank accounts, while almost a million was seized, along with mobile phones, money counting machines and designer goods, when the defendants were arrested in June last year.
Judge Taylor said while the exact total amount laundered was not known, it could be around £5 million given “scale of the operation” and “the sums involved”.
The network involved money being deposited into various bank accounts, some belonging to foreign students who had returned home.
Much of the money was then paid into business accounts and subsequently into online payment services and top-up credit cards based overseas, City of London Police, who led the investigation, said.
Prosecutor Kevin Dent QC said Wei had deposited some £340,000 into Santander accounts, telling staff the cash came from rent money and, later, a Chinese restaurant.
Wei’s two-year sentence was suspended for two years, and she was ordered to carry out 250 hours community service.
Seven other members of the gang, all of whom had also pleaded guilty, were sentenced in March.
Wei’s husband Qin Gao, 32, previously of Catford, south-east London, was sentenced to two years and 11 months in prison, while Jie Zheng, of Harston Walk, east London, was sentenced to four years and six months behind bars.
Hai Bin Xue of Jasper Road in east London, Shiqiang Wang, of Varley Road in east London, Jinhui Wang, of Ryecroft Road, south-east London and Jiaming Chen, of Harston Walk, east London were each jailed for three years and 10 months.
Xiao Jie Wu, 26, of Ryecroft Road, south-east London was sentenced to two years suspended and 250 hours community service. Chen was sentenced to 10 months, to run consecutively, for the additional charge of possession of a false identity document with improper intention.
Detective Constable Ray Eaglesmith, from City of London Police, said: “These criminal individuals were caught trying to both cheat the system and evade detection, while moving vast amounts of money out of the UK.
“Depriving criminals of their wealth disrupts organised crime. We will continue to bring offenders to justice and hit them in the pocket.”