UPDATED: UK, Cayman investigate gold smuggling scheme

Nearly 230 pounds of gold seized

Gold seized by UK officers on 1 June - Photo: National Crime Agency

UPDATED SUNDAY, JULY 21: The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency is working with Cayman Islands authorities to investigate $4.1 million worth of gold seized at London’s Heathrow airport on 1 June.

The gold, intercepted in the UK by Border Force officers, are thought to originate from a South American drug cartel operation that used the Cayman Islands as a stopping point, the NCA said.

“It was being transported from the Cayman Islands to Switzerland, having earlier been shipped to the Caymans on a private jet which had arrived from Venezuela,” an NCA press release read.

“The gold is now the subject of a money laundering investigation being run by the Cayman authorities, with the assistance of the NCA.”

The seized gold bars and pieces weigh nearly 230 pounds and are being held under the UK’s Proceeds of Crime Act, following a hearing at Uxbridge Magistrates Court in London.

“We believe that this shipment was linked to drug cartels operating out of South America. Working with partners overseas and in the UK, we were quickly able to identify it and stop [its] onward movement,” said NCA Heathrow branch commander, Steve McIntyre.

He added, “The business model of many organised crime groups relies upon the ability to move money across borders, to fund further investment in criminal activity. If we can stop that, it not only causes disruption to the criminal network involved and prevents them benefiting from crime, it also stops that re-investment.”

The release also quoted Nick Jariwalla, Border Force Heathrow Director, who said, “Taking large amounts of money or gold out of the control of criminal networks hits them where they feel it most, in the pocket.”

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service told the Cayman Compass in an email that it would not be providing comment on the case at this time.