FOUR Latvian men who orchestrated an international money laundering ring in West Lothian have been jailed.
Hardijs Langsteins, 37, from Salford, near Manchester; Maris Kursis, 30, from Falkirk; Arvids Civkors, 30, from Edinburgh and Aivars Dzagarjans, 38, from Forth, Northumberland; were convicted last month at Edinburgh Sheriff Court of carrying out illegal activity on June 20, 2012, and December 2, 2016.
And today they were each sentenced to four years and 11 months in prison.
The Crown case was that the men encouraged people from Latvia to come to the UK, offering to provide their travel, accommodation and employment.
Once the people arrived in the UK, they were told they were “in debt” to the gang. The victims were forced to open bank accounts in their own names, hand over their bank accounts and bank cards and were sent to work in various locations throughout the UK.
The gang retained control over their earnings and refusal to co-operate met with threats of violence and assaults.
A Police Scotland investigation into this crime group was launched in April 2016, when it was established that they were responsible for bringing Latvian nationals into the UK and housing them within crowded accommodation within several addresses in West Lothian.
Speaking after today’s sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Healy said: “We are pleased with the convictions and custodial sentences for members of this crime group, who exploited vulnerable victims for financial gain.
“We hope that the custodial sentences will send a clear message that dissuades others from becoming involved in this type of organised crime, while also providing confidence for other victims to come forward.
“Our communities can rest assured that in cases like this we work closely with Crown Office and are strongly supported by other partner agencies, who are all committed to bringing those responsible for such offences to justice, whilst providing victims with all the necessary support and assistance they may require.”
In passing sentence, Sheriff Thomas Welsh QC said: “The offences were highly sophisticated and were executed with meticulous precision. Given the impact that it had on the individuals named on the indictment and the banking system in general, I conclude that there is no alternative to custody in the case.
“You will each receive sentences of four years and 11 months.”
The four men now face actions under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The case against them under this piece of legislation will call on January 15 next year.
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