Around £4m worth of gold has been seized after being discovered in the cargo section of a plane at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2019.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) reclaimed 104kg of gold bars, some in the shape of hearts, in June 2019 on a plane that had arrived from the Cayman Islands and had stopped at Heathrow on its way to Switzerland.
The gold had been taken to the Caymans on a private jet which arrived from Venezuela, South America.
Working alongside authorities in the Caymans, the NCA was able to establish that a trail of false paperwork had been created by South American drug cartels to hide that the gold was from Venezuela.
Following discussions with the High Court, the NCA obtained a civil recovery order – which requires proof that assets or property have been acquired through unlawful conduct – for more than 80% of the gold.
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The remaining 20% will be returned to companies with a financial interest.
NCA branch commander Andy Noyes said: “Criminals are attracted to gold as a way of moving drug money due to the high value contained in relatively small amounts.
“This intervention has disrupted the criminal network, stopping them from reinvesting in further criminality that causes harm to our communities.”