A former glamour model who once dated boxer Joe Calzaghe helped smuggle £5 million of criminal cash into Dubai, a court heard.
Jo-Emma Larvin, 44, allegedly hid the cash in suitcases on flights from Heathrow on two occasions in 2020 as part of a £100m smuggling ring.
Smugglers like Larvin would be paid around £3,000 as well as expenses for a few days in the Middle Eastern city, Isleworth Crown Court heard.
It was said on her second smuggling trip to Dubai she travelled with partner Jonathan Johnson, 55, who she lives with in Ripon, North Yorkshire.
The pair deny removing criminal property from the UK along with their co-accused Amy Harrison, 27, of Worcester Park, Surrey, Beatrice Auty, 26, of Fulham, west London, and Liam Rabone, 29, of West Kensington, London.
Larvin’s six-year relationship with Welsh boxing legend Joe Calzaghe ended in 2009. There is no suggestion Mr Calzaghe had any involvement in the alleged offences.
The trial at Isleworth Crown Court heard members of the smuggling gang flew business class to take more luggage – which would also be packed with air fresheners and normal holiday items like coat hangers and razors to disguise the cash.
Jurors heard during Larvin’s first trip in August 2020 with Harrison, the pair smuggled an estimated £2.2 million in seven cases.
But Johnson then joined Larvin on the second trip in September, with the pair smuggling around £2.8m in eight suitcases, prosecutors said.
The couple were arrested in March last year.
The court heard Auty took three trips from Heathrow to Dubai, but the third has only been charged as attempting to remove criminal cash, as the cases were intercepted by the National Crime Agency.
She is also accused of “assisting” with 11 other trips, including packing cash in suitcases and accompanying smugglers to the airport.
As well as the trip with Larvin, Harrison took two other trips smuggling a total of £6 million and Rabone, who was said to have family in Dubai, also took three trips with a similar total, the court heard.
Prosecutor Julian Christopher KC said: “Each of the defendants is alleged to have played a significant part in the transportation of very large amounts of cash – English and Scottish banknotes – out to Dubai from Heathrow.
“Millions of pounds worth, carried in suitcases checked in as luggage as they were flying as passengers.”
Mr Christopher said their involvement would “likely not be in dispute” but jurors need to decide whether the money was from the proceeds of crime, and whether the accused “knew or suspected it was”,
The defendants were involved in 16 trips – but a total of 83 trips successfully took place over 18 months by organiser Abdulla Alfalasi, the court heard.
Two further trips were unsuccessful because the travellers were stopped at Heathrow before their plane took off, it was said.
Mr Christopher said: “The total amount of cash removed in those 83 occasions is in the region of £100m.”
He said anything over 10,000 Euros leaving the European Union has to be declared to HMRC – while the smugglers’ suitcases typically contained up to £500,000.
Mr Christopher said: “If these were declared at Heathrow the likelihood is that they would be detained until the source of the money could be determined.
“So the people carrying the cash had to keep quiet about the cash in the cases as they checked the cases in.”
Once in Dubai, the smugglers would declare the cash by handing over a letter that authorised them to carry it from a company called Omnivest, which is owned by Alfalasi.
Sometimes authorities in Dubai checked the amounts were “broadly accurate” and then gave a currency declaration form, the court heard.
Mr Christopher said: “Then the couriers would have a few days in Dubai before flying back with cases that were very considerably lighter than when they went out – so they could be used again.
“Their expenses were paid for, their hotel accommodation, and they were paid something like £3,000 each for the trip.”
The trial continues.
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