haulage fraud

A Stoke-on-Trent haulage boss and five other defendants have been found guilty of running a large-scale money laundering operation involving up to £150m in cash.

Disqualified director Marcus Hughes was convicted of conspiracy to launder cash at Stoke Crown Court on 18 November, together with transport planners Leon Woolley and Liam Bailey, drivers Nicholas Fern and Damion Morgan and business associate Simon Davies.

Hughes was the effective operator of Genesis 2014 UK, a haulage firm that had its licence revoked in 2021 for the second time in three years.

The regional organised crime unit for the West Midlands became aware of a criminal operation to launder cash through the haulage firm, with Hughes using global encrypted phone network Encrochat to communicate with a man in Dubai; convicted fraudster Craig Johnson.

A deal was struck that large sums of cash would be collected at various UK locations with the intention of transporting it to London where it could be transferred onwards and legitimised.

The total amount of cash was between £100m and £150m.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said French authorities had broken into Encrochat and reported activity to their British counterparts.

On 26 March 2021, two Genesis vehicles were stopped separately and each was found to contain substantial amounts of cash – totalling around £700,000.

Hughes was arrested the same day and £60,000 was recovered from his home.

Jonathan Kelleher of the CPS said: “The defendants were involved in the wholesale haulage of huge quantities of criminal cash, totalling in excess of £100 million.

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“They were an essential distribution part of the criminal network, transferring the cash proceeds of criminal activity for the wider benefit of organised criminals, as well as their own gain.

“The use of an encrypted Encrochat phone and the communication with criminals in Dubai illustrate the sophisticated methods increasingly used by organised networks, operating across the world.

“The CPS proceeds of crime division will now pursue the defendants to strip them of their own gains from their involvement in organised crime,” he added.

Detective inspector Jonathan Jones of the regional organised crime unit for the West Midlands said: “These men were part of a nationally significant organised crime group offering professional money laundering services to criminals up and down the country, and beyond.

“Their convictions and sentences will be a warning to deter others from involvement in money laundering which is as abhorrent as the crimes that generate the cash in the first place.

“Close cooperation and tireless effort from the outset between the police, CPS Serious Economic Organised Crime and International Directorate and instructed counsel was the key to success in this case.

“£701,685.75 has already been forfeited in civil proceedings from this OCG with half of this returning to Staffordshire Police via the Home Office asset recovery incentivisation scheme to contribute to fighting crime in the county."

Last year, TC Nick Denton heard how Hughes was still playing a significant managerial role at Genesis 2014 UK, despite directors Helen Walker and Tracy Greening – Hughes’ life partner – agreeing to ensure he had no influence or control over the firm.

Hughes was disqualified in 2018 for failing to inform the TC of his 12-year prison sentence for supplying cannabis.

Denton revoked the company’s licence for three years after deciding the business was “not capable of sufficiently disassociating itself from Marcus Hughes”.