A money launderer who worked for people smuggling networks involved in small boat crossings has been sentenced to eight years in prison.
Asghar Gheshalghian, 48, who is originally from Iran, ran an unregistered money transfer business from an office block in Wood Green, north London.
Over a period of nearly five years, he acted as a trusted middleman: he took payments from migrants and their families, and when they safely arrived in the UK, either by boat across the English Channel or by truck, he released that money to the criminal gangs, charging a commission.
Gheshalghian, who operated a rug company as a front for his money laundering activities, was arrested in 2021 following a two-year investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Following his arrest, NCA officers searched his business premises, a storage lock-up and his home in Newham, east London, seizing around £50,000 in cash.
They used phone evidence to link him to at least eight Iranian migrants who arrived in the UK and subsequently claimed asylum.
In all, investigators traced payments of around £1.6m into his bank accounts.
Covert recordings of him were obtained in which he bragged to associates that he was trusted by the people smugglers, and admitted that “70 to 80% of our business is illegal”.
During the trial, evidence was also presented from an ITV documentary in which an anonymous people smuggler had referred to a broker they used to move money known as “Mr G” – who turned out to be Gheshalghian.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Griffith said: “As is often said, it’s the people smugglers to whom the authorities should be looking to stop the traffic across the Channel, and I’m afraid you played a significant part in just that.”
Emotional farewell in court
Gheshalghian was impassive in the dock as his sentence was handed down at Southwark Crown Court.
But in an emotional farewell, he asked permission to pass his watch to his wife, who had been looking on from the public gallery. She broke down in tears as he was led away.
Matthew Rivers, NCA branch commander, said: “Asghar Gheshalghian handled the payments and money laundering that enabled criminal groups to arrange illegal and dangerous boat and lorry crossings to the UK.
“Today’s sentencing concludes a two-year investigation, and Gheshalghian now faces eight years behind bars.
“At the NCA, we work tirelessly to disrupt organised immigration crime, and pursue the perpetrators who target and exploit vulnerable individuals, and risk the lives of others in pursuit of profit.”