A court has heard how the glamorous married mother-of-two accused of masterminding a £104m smuggling ring is still on the run.
Michelle Clarke, 42, is still wanted by the National Crime Agency in connection with a cash-smuggling plot that saw ex-glamour model Jo-Emma Larvin flying business class between Heathrow and Dubai carrying suitcases stuffed with cash.
Several other women were recruited by Clarke, prosecutors claim, in order to ship the vast amounts of currency. Larvin, an ex-girlfriend of boxer Joe Calzaghe, travelled to Dubai with 27-year-old Amy Harrison carrying £2.2million in seven suitcases.
READ MORE: Brit mum wanted in connection with 'dirty' £104m Dubai money laundering mission
On a second trip, Larvin was accompanied by her partner Jonathan Johnson, 55, and the pair were carrying £2.8million hidden in their luggage.
Any sum more than 10,000 Euros in cash can’t be taken out of the EU has to be declared to HMRC.
The couriers were paid £3,000 plus expenses for their numerous cash runs to Dubai.
Julian Christopher KC, prosecuting, told the court the couriers were recruited for the plot “directly and through Michelle Clarke”.
Former glamour model 'helped smuggle £5m cash into Dubai with suitcases'
Referring to Clarke, he added: “A British national in Dubai became involved in recruiting couriers. She does not appear in the dock because she is outside the jurisdiction.”
Larvin denied any wrongdoing, claiming she had been led to believe that she was carrying the cash on behalf of UAE Embassy.
Money laundering expert Lesley Hayton, a technical adviser from HM Treasury, told the Daily Mail that coffee and air freshener had been packed around the cash to distract sniffer dogs.
“There is a belief that coffee will put a sniffer dog away from finding the cash,” she explained.
She added the couriers had flown business class, in order to take advantage of the increased baggage allowance and shorter waiting times.
Joe Calzaghe's ex knew he was going to leave her
Clarke, who previously worked as a digital co-ordinator for Sky TV, was described in court as the kingpin behind the plot.
Larvin and Johnson, both from Ripon, in North Yorkshire, were convicted of removing criminal property from the UK, as was 26-year-old Londoner Beatrice Auty.
Judge Sarah Paneth granted the defendants bail ahead of sentence on a date to be fixed, saying: “I do not see any of you as a flight risk, otherwise I would not be granting you bail.”
Jilted Jo's moving on
The NCA says Clarke is currently believed to be living in a villa on the exclusive Dubai Hills residential estate in the UAE.
Police in Dubai have interviewed her about the case, but it is not clear if extradition proceedings have begun to bring her to the UK.
An Extradition Treaty between the UK and the UAE came into force in 2008, leaving only a short list of countries where fugitives can evade British justice which includes Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Egypt and Namibia.
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