Money laundering scam artist ordered to hand over £75,000 after ‘cuckoo smurfing’ con

A man who was jailed for his role in a money laundering scam known as “cuckoo smurfing” has been ordered to hand over £75,150 to prosecutors.

Muhammed Hameed, 32, was ordered to give up the cash under proceeds of crime legislation following a court hearing on Monday. The scam artist was jailed for five-and -a-half years earlier this year alongside accomplices Saleem Shikari, 52, and Shahid Aslam, 36.

The trio used a complicated scheme to hide almost £700,000 belonging to criminal gangs before police caught them in Dundee in 2013. The scheme known as cuckoo smurfing involves replacing legitimate cash intended for bank transfers overseas with dirty money.

Cuckoo refers to the fact that those involved pay sums of money into accounts of other people unassociated with the criminal activity. This is likened to the way a cuckoo will lay its eggs in the nests of other species of bird.

The police launched Operation Confab to catch Hameed and his accomplices, before catching them at his house with a money counter and a plastic bag containing £75,000. Detectives watched the gang making multiple deposits of significant sums of money at city banks “on a regular, almost daily basis”.

Officers built up financial profiles of the men and gathered enough evidence to bring Hameed and Shikari, of Dundee, and Aslam, of Kirkcaldy, to court.

Passing sentence at the High Court in Glasgow, temporary judge Johanna Johnston QC told Hameed: “You became involved in a sophisticated scheme. A large amount of money over a relatively long period of time was laundered.

“This was done through a network of contacts who provided you with details of accounts. It also involved innocent third parties who unwittingly had their confidential bank details used and passed on to others.”

At the High Court in Edinburgh judge Lord Burns was told by depute advocate Barry Divers that prosecutors and defence lawyers had agreed that Hameed should hand over £75,150. Mr Divers also told the court that prosecutors were no longer pursuing Shikari and Aslam.

Lord Burns ordered that Hameed should pay the sum to clerks at Glasgow Sheriff Court within six months.

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