Man, 45, handed prison sentence for money laundering and drugs offences as police find cocaine along with £110,000 cash in M3 drugs bust
A MAN has been handed a prison sentence after an organised crime unit revealed he was money laundering - thanks to a motorway drugs bust on the M3.
Police officers found more than £110,000 in cash as well as a wrap of cocaine in Steven El-Mandhir’s car in 2018.
The 45-year-old from Kingston-upon-Thames pleaded guilty at Winchester Crown Court on July 5 to four counts of money laundering, possession of a controlled drug, and failure to comply with a request to provide a password for his encrypted device.
He was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison at the same hearing.
Three years ago, officers had stop checked El-Mandhir’s Vauxhall Antara near Winchester Services on the M3 northbound, searching the vehicle and seizing a roll of cash, mobile phones including an encrypted device, and a workman’s knife.
The car was found to contain a sophisticated electronic hide so officers seized it to be forensically examined.
Two packages inside the hide were found to contain £113,360 cash in notes.
A small bag of white powder was also seized, which was confirmed to be a wrap of cocaine.
Enquiries revealed that El-Mandhir had also previously been the registered keeper of a similar second Vauxhall Antara, which he had driven to meet an Albanian organised crime group.
Investigators identified that he collected a package from members of the group, who were arrested on that day in connection with drugs supply offences.
Financial analysis during the investigation by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit highlighted that El-Mandhir had not declared any income since 2013/2014 yet he had received £13,774 in cash deposits into his account the year before his arrest.
Toby Wilson, investigating officer detective constable from SEROCU’s regional asset recovery team, said: ‘El-Mandhir was operating as a professional enabler couriering cash from the supply of drugs.
‘Organised crime groups rely on professional couriers to transport and launder cash they make from the supply of class A drugs.
‘Investigators were able to identify that El-Mandhir had two successive vehicles fitted with a sophisticated electronic hide which are only ever used to transport illicit commodities.
‘This evidence, with the encrypted mobile phone, which deleted messages and data after 14 days, demonstrated that he was operating as a professional courier.’