Joe Calzaghe’s glamour model ex-girlfriend is facing jail for helping smuggle suitcases full of cash from the UK to Dubai in a £104m smuggling ring.
Jo-Emma Larvin, 44, who dated the Welsh boxer for six years, hid dirty money in luggage before flying it out from Heathrow to the Middle East.
Larvin made the first trip with Amy Harrison, 27, when they took £2.2m into Dubai in seven suitcases.
Her partner Jonathan Johnson, 55, travelled with her on the second time.
The couple carried £2.8m in September 2020, using ordinary holiday items to disguise the cash stashed in eight suitcases as part of a £104m laundering ring.
Jo-Emma Larvin (pictured) acted as a ‘courier’ for a smuggling gang by taking a suitcase full of money to Dubai
Ms Larvin dated Welsh boxer Joe Calzaghe for six years – here they are pictured together at the 2006 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards
Larvin’s six year relationship with former Welsh boxing legend Calzaghe ended in 2009.
She now describes herself as a safari specialist, wildlife photographer, travel consultant, social media digital marketing specialist and interior designer.
Larvin denied any wrongdoing and claimed she believed she was flying out millions of pounds for the UAE Embassy.
The model said when she and her partner took the job it was the ‘worst decision’ of their lives.
Larvin and Johnson, both of Ripon, North Yorks, along with Harrison, of Worcester Park, Surrey, Beatrice Auty, 26, of Fulham, all denied but were unanimously convicted of removing criminal property from the UK.
Judge Sarah Paneth granted the defendants bail ahead of sentence on a date to be fixed and said: ‘I do not see any of you as a flight risk, otherwise I would not be granting you bail.’
The 44-year-old and her partner Jonathan Johnson (pictured together outside court) were charged with three other people with transferring criminal property
Liam Rabone, 29, of West Kensington, was cleared of removing criminal property after he told jurors: ‘I would never have gone to two international airports knowing it was part of a crime syndicate.’
The cash smugglers flew business class so they could take more luggage with them.
They declared cash once arriving in Dubai, handing over a letter authorising them to carry it from a company called Omnivest.
Julian Christopher, KC, prosecuting, told jurors the defendants ‘played a significant part in the transportation of very large amounts of cash’ to Dubai from Heathrow.
Millions of pounds in English and Scottish banknotes were carried in suitcases checked in as luggage, the court heard.
Anything over 10,000 Euros leaving the EU has to be declared to HMRC, but the smugglers’ suitcases usually contained up to £500,000.
The couriers were paid £3,000 and all their expenses for their trips to Dubai befre flying back with ‘their very considerably lighter’ suitcases.
During her first trip Larvin sent messages to Johnson, saying she was ‘in at the deep end’.
Two of those couriers are already in prison – including Tara Hanlon, 31, (pictured) who was jailed for nearly three years in July after being caught taking around £2million from the UK to Dubai
Undated handout photo issued by National Crime Agency of some of the money found in the possession of Hanlon when she was stopped at Heathrow Airport
Johnson is said to have told her: ‘You need to be super careful,’ and: ‘I like your enterprise but the threat of clink [sic].’
Mr Christopher said: ‘That’s the threat of prison – he’s worried about the illegal nature of this.’
Johnson also messaged Larvin two days before his first trip to Dubai, and said taking eight suitcases with them was ‘taking the p**s’.
NCA investigators found couriers carried £104m out of the country on 83 Emirates flights from London Heathrow to Dubai.
Kingpin Abdulla Alfalasi, 48, from Dubai, was jailed for more than nine years last July.
Recruitment consultant Tara Hanlon, 32, described as a Kim Kardashian lookalike, was locked up for nearly three years in 2022 for money laundering offences.
Auty was recruited as a courier by married mother-of-two Michelle Clarke, 42, in July 2020.
Emirati national Abdulla Alfalasi (left), 47, ringleader of a gang that smuggled more than £100million in dirty cash out of the UK to Dubai was jailed for more than nine years in the biggest money-laundering case of its kind. Hanlon (right) had been previously later jailed for two years and 10 months
Abdullah Mohammed Ali Bin Beyat Alfalasi, 46, was the kingpin behind the moving of more than £100million in crooked cash from the UK to the UAE, has been charged with money laundering. Pictured: Some of the money found by authorities which was destined for Dubai
Hanlon was told to ‘reassure’ Auty, who was then added by Leeds-based mum Clarke to the ‘Sunshine and Lollipops’ WhatsApp group, set up to organise the couriers arriving in Dubai.
Clarke, who is still on the run, urged couriers to use only mobile pay-as-you-go sims and said: ‘Only use these phones for now on and delete everything from your personal phones’.
Money laundering expert and technical adviser from HM Treasury, Lesley Hayton said coffee and air freshener had been secreted in the suitcases to put sniffer dogs off the scent of cash.
She said anything over £13,000 has to be declared on arrival in the Dubai.
Ms Hayton added: ‘There is a belief that when moving large sums of cash…there is a belief that coffee will put a sniffer dog away from finding the cash.’
She added: ‘I believe they were travelling with Emirates Airlines, business class has the luxury of a later check in, so that makes the chances of getting caught that much smaller than if you were waiting in an airport for two to three hours.
‘There is also a higher baggage allowance on business class.’
Johnson is said to have told Ms Larvin that their contacts were ‘taking the p***’, adding: ‘How the f*** do two people carry eight cases it’s f****** ridiculous, talk about conspicuous.’
The couple were arrested in March last year.
Auty told the court she was put in contact with Clarke by her ex-partner and told she would be working for the UAE royal family.
She said met a driver called Karim at a Starbucks in Knightsbridge who took her to a town house and gave her suitcases to take to Dubai and told her: ‘Have a lovely trip.’
Auty said she did not believe she was doing anything illegal.
Larvin and Johnson, both of Ripon, North Yorks, along with Harrison, of Worcester Park, Surrey, and Auty, of Fulham, all denied but were convicted of removing criminal property from the UK.
Rabone, of West Kensington, denied and was cleared of the same charge.
Alfalasi, from Dubai, was arrested in December 2021 at an apartment in Lowndes Square, Belgravia, where three-bed properties sell for more than £11m.
He admitted removing criminal cash from the UK between April 3 2019 and November 3 2020.
Earlier H.E. Hamid Al Zaabi, Director-General of the UAE’s Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism, said: ‘This case is a practical example of how the UAE and UK are working closely to increase cooperation and coordination on illicit financial flows as intelligence sharing and joint operation capabilities are enhanced.
‘We will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the UK in the global fight against illicit finance.’
Janes Solicitors, who represented Rabone, said: ‘Liam Rabone is delighted with his acquittal today after an eight-week trial at Isleworth Crown Court.
‘Throughout the police investigation and the court proceedings Mr Rabone has
maintained his innocence and he is enormously grateful that the jury has reached its
decision after four days of deliberation, despite reaching guilty verdicts in respect of the
other 4 co-defendants of money-laundering offences.’ends
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