The National Crime Agency (NCA) has announced the successful recovery of gold worth an estimated £4 million from South American drug cartels.
According to NCA financial investigators, the shipment of gold weighing 104 kilos was seized at Heathrow in June 2019. The gold was being transported from the Cayman Islands to Switzerland via Heathrow Airport, having earlier been shipped to the Caymans on a private jet which had arrived from Venezuela.
Upon further investigation, the NCA discovered that a false paperwork trail had been created to hide the true origin of the gold as Venezuela and that those involved in the organization and physical movement of the gold had links to organized crime.
NCA officers worked closely with authorities in the Cayman Islands to prove the gold’s true origins and connections to South American drug cartels. Following settlement discussions and an application to the High Court, the NCA obtained a civil recovery order for over 80 per cent of the gold under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The remaining 20 per cent will be returned to companies with a financial interest in the gold. The recovery of such a significant amount of gold is a major victory for the NCA and represents a significant disruption to the criminal network involved.
NCA Branch Commander Andy Noyes praised the successful operation, saying: “Criminals are attracted to gold as a way of moving drugs money due to the high value contained in relatively small amounts.
“Our investigation showed this shipment was linked to drug cartels operating out of South America, but we were able to stop it reaching its final destination thanks to established links with overseas partners.
“This intervention has disrupted the criminal network, stopping them from reinvesting in further criminality that causes harm to our communities.”
The recovery of the gold and disruption of the criminal network involved represents a significant win in the ongoing fight against organised crime and money laundering.