Student linked to Serious Organised Crime jailed for money laundering

Stirling student linked to Serious Organised Crime jailed for money-laundering offences

A student who laundered thousands of pounds for a major gangland criminal has been jailed for 18 months. 

Sums totalling £160,000 were washed through four bank accounts belonging to Xiaotong Huang. 

She used the money to fund a luxury spending spree that included buying designer label items and expensive wines as well as paying for her tuition fees at Stirling University. 

Spending from one account alone totalled £12,479 and included items bought from Gucci, Burberry and Coach as well as £797 on goods from Harrods. 

She also purchased £6,900 worth of wine over two separate payments of £3,500 and £3,400 one week apart as well as spending £480 on a Louis Vuitton bag. 

Huang, 28, was convicted at Falkirk Sheriff Court in March following a six-day trial after jurors unanimously found her guilty of charges under proceeds of crime legislation. 

They convicted her of laundering a total of £84,912. 

The charge was aggravated by her connection to Serious and Organised Crime. 

She arrived in Scotland from China in 2019 on a temporary student visa, which allowed her to work only a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time.  

But the court heard there was no record of HMRC activity or of any benefits having been paid to Huang, who had no visible income stream. 

Prosecutors enlisted a financial intelligence analyst to forensically examine Huang’s accounts and compile an itemised breakdown of her banking activities.  

They pieced together her life of crime by following the trail of complex transactions which revealed  how the money was transferred into those accounts by multiple third parties. 

One account showed a total of £153,071 being credited from cash deposits and third-party transfers. 

Examination of another account showed that £61,006.97 was deposited between June 2019 and  May 2021. 

And a further £58,014.03 flowed into another account in Huang’s name between June 2019 and  May 2021. 

In total, the student spent £35,758 on the High Street and online between 2019 and 2022. 

But the money-laundering scheme began to unravel in April 2021, when undercover police officers were carrying out surveillance on an individual suspected of high-level money laundering for a Scottish Organised Crime Group dealing in illegal drugs. 

Huang, wearing a cream coat with distinctive red sleeves and with a mask over her face, was seen leaving the man’s Mercedes in Stirling carrying a brown paper bag. 

Minutes later, undercover surveillance officers saw her producing an inch and a half thick bundle of cash from the brown paper bag and depositing £3,500 at the travel money counter at the Post Office at WH Smith in the Thistle Shopping Centre, Stirling. 

On itemising the transactions in and out of the various accounts, the criminal intelligence analyst noted that the accused moved money between accounts numerous times a day and in varying amounts. 

Huang was arrested on 21 April 2021, at her home, with police officers identifying the cream coat which was draped over a chair. 

Kenny Donnelly, Deputy Crown Agent, Specialist Casework, said he hoped the sentence would be a deterrent to others who are lured into a world of Serious Organised Crime and money-laundering. 

He said: “Money laundering is not a victimless crime and plays an integral role in a complex, large-scale operation which facilitates the criminal activity of others. 

“I hope this conviction demonstrates the ability of police and prosecutors to investigate, prepare and prosecute serious and organised crime of this nature. 

“The Crown will continue working with the police and other agencies as a member of Scotland’s Serious and Organised Crime Taskforce to ensure that these crimes are detected and those responsible prosecuted using all measures at our disposal.”