VIDEO: Iranian money launderer for migrants and people smugglers found guilty of facilitating illegal immigration

Friday 19 January 2024

A 'middle man' for people smuggling gangs bringing migrants across the Channel in small boats has been found guilty of money laundering.

Iranian Asghar Gheshalghian, 48, acted as a conduit for criminal gangs, accepting payments from migrants and releasing the money to people smugglers after the migrants arrived in the UK.

Operating under the alias, 'Mr. G' he ran an unregistered money services business from an office in Wood Green, East London, operating a rug company as a front for his illegal activities.

He was arrested by National Crime Agency (NCA) officers in 2021 based on a wealth of evidence built up during a two-year investigation.

Asghar Gheshalghian acted as a trusted middleman for criminal gangs.

Phone evidence showed links with at least eight Iranian migrants who later arrived in the UK by boat or lorry and claimed asylum.

Gheshalghian was found guilty of five counts of money laundering and facilitating illegal immigration at Southwark Crown Court, following a two week trial.

Following his arrest, the NCA searched his business and home, seizing around £50,000 in cash. Financial investigators were also able to evidence around £1.6m in payments into his bank accounts.

Investigators obtained covert phone recordings where he admitted to associates that “70-80 percent of our business is illegal”.

In a separate recording, he boasted about his special relationship with people smuggling gangs in Northern France.

Following Gheshalghian's arrest, the NCA searched his business and home, seizing around £50,000 in cash.

He bragged: "They approve of me, they know I won’t cheat on them, once the task is completed – money”.

Commander Mark Howes said: “By his own admission, Asghar Gheshalghian was trusted by organised crime gangs to handle their payments. In doing so, he enabled their criminality and happily took a cut from the profits they made from it.

“This is why disrupting and dismantling the gangs involved in organised immigration crime is a priority for the NCA. Targeting their financial flows through agents like Gheshalghian is just one of the ways we are doing that.”

Michael Oatley, Unit Head for the CPS, added: "People smugglers treat vulnerable migrants desperate for a better life as goods, often putting their safety and even lives at risk for profit.

"Through his money laundering service, Gheshlaghian helped fund and facilitate dangerous criminals who exploited migrants."

Gheshalghian will be sentenced on Wednesday 24 January.