Three men have been jailed for smuggling millions of pounds of criminal cash out of the UK.
Arturs Nespors, 30, and Alexksej Rybnikov, 42, both of no fixed address, and Marius Stancikas, 40, of Broad Street, Coventry, were part of an international organised crime gang involved in cigarette trafficking, drug smuggling and money laundering.
Today, 6 November 2019, they were jailed for a total of 12 years and nine months.
Officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) were supported by West Midlands Police when they arrested the men earlier this year, during a coordinated Europe-wide operation aimed at dismantling the international crime network. During the operation HMRC recovered more than £1 million at a ‘cash safe house’ in Coventry and another £251,000 from the boot of a car in Manchester.
Polish, Lithuanian, Estonian and Spanish authorities carried out simultaneous raids at other target addresses, resulting in a further 18 arrests across Europe. In total more than 40 properties were searched, which led to seizures of eight million Euros, diamonds, gold bars, jewellery and luxury vehicles. A substantial quantity of illicit cigarettes and drugs were also recovered.
The organised crime gang is believed to have acquired an estimated 680 million Euros as a result of their criminal activities between 2017 and 2019.
HMRC joined law enforcement agencies across Europe in the co-ordinated operation, which was supported by Europol and Eurojust.
More than 450 police and customs officers, including police and special interventions units carried out raids targeting members of the criminal network on 15 May 2019.
HMRC led UK-based investigations into Nespors, Rybnikov and Stancikas, who were involved in moving millions of pounds of criminal money out of the UK.
The money is believed to have derived from the sale of illicit tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.
The trio used a house in Coventry as a hub for their criminal operation and smuggled large sums of cash out of the country hidden amongst clothes in shrink wrapped suitcases.
Nespors was arrested when HMRC and armed officers from West Midlands police entered the ‘cash safe house’ on Lucerne Close on 16 May 2019. A search of the house uncovered more than £1 million in cash and three money counting machines. There was also an open suitcase which had been partially filled with clothes and envelopes filled with cash.
Rybnikov was arrested just an hour before when he was seen leaving the premises.
Earlier in the day armed West Midlands police officers stopped a car occupied by Stancikas and another male, Agnius Sindaras, 43, of Lithuania, on Princess Road, Manchester. Both men were arrested and £251,000 of cash found in the boot of the car.
Nespors, Rybnikov and Stancikas admitted money laundering offences at Birmingham Crown Court on 26 July 2019.
They were sentenced at the same court today:
- Nespors was sentenced to five years and three months in prison.
- Rybnikov was sentenced to five years and three months in prison.
- Stancikas was sentenced to two years and three months in prison.
Sindaras was deported from the UK to Lithuania in May 2019 following his arrest.
Notes to Editors
- Arturs Nespors, DOB 28/08/1989, of no fixed abode UK, was sentenced to five years and three months in prison for facilitating the acquisition, retention, use or control or criminal property, namely a quantity of cash by or on behalf of another person contrary to sections 328 and 334 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 between 01/03/2019 and 16/05/2019.
- Alexksej Rybnikov, DOB 13/02/1977, of no fixed abode UK, was sentenced to five years and three months in prison for facilitating the acquisition, retention, use or control or criminal property, namely a quantity of cash by or on behalf of another person contrary to sections 328 and 334 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 between 01/03/2019 and 16/05/2019.
- Marius Stancikas, DOB 01/05/1979, of Broad Street, Coventry was sentenced to two years and three months for facilitating the acquisition, retention, use or control or criminal property, namely a quantity of cash by or on behalf of another person contrary to sections 328 and 334 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 between 01/03/2019 and 16/05/2019.
- Agnius Sindaras, DOB 27/05/1976, of Lithuania, was deported from the UK to Lithuania following his arrest in May 2019.
- Europol article and video released following the operation in May 2019.
- Information about any type of tax fraud can be reported to HMRC online at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs/contact/customs-excise-and-vat-fraud-reporting
- Follow HMRC Press Office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice
Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.
HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.