A pair of Preston postmen have gone on trial accused of laundering money from international online fraud and blackmail scams.
Shaker Javaid and Alex Stocks, who met while working for the Royal Mail in Preston, allegedly set up bank accounts which were used to handle cash paid by victims of a string of international swindles.
The pair’s involvement came to light after overseas students at Exeter University were tricked out of deposits for accommodation which did not exist.
Police then uncovered an international web of extortion and deception in which tens of thousands of pounds were allegedly laundered by the two friends, Exeter Crown Court was told.
The entire network was investigated by police in Devon after foreign students arriving for the new academic year were conned out of large deposits for accommodation.
The court heard most of the money was untraceable, but some of the students had paid by bank transfer and these were tracked to a network of bank accounts in Preston.
Javaid and Stocks controlled the bank accounts which were in the names of companies called Flash claims ltd and Global Supplies.
Inquiries showed cash from internet scams all around the world had been channelled through the accounts before being withdrawn in cash.
The victims came from as far away as China and Germany and some were forced to transfer cash after online threats were made against their families. The sums involved were often very large, with one victim paying £30,776 and Javaid transferring £56,266 from one account to another at one stage.
The operation ran from 2008 to 2012, when it was closed down by the police. Javaid, 32, of Albert Terrace, and Stocks, 30, of Birkett Drive, Ribbleton, deny conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime. Stocks also denies one count of enabling the retention of the proceeds of crime and Javaid denies six charges of retaining or transferring proceeds of crime.
Mary McCarthy, prosecuting, said:”These men first came to the attention of the police in Exeter in 2009 after a number of students booked and paid deposits for accommodation. When they arrived here in Exeter they found they had been fooled and conned and the accommodation they paid for was not available.
“Most payments were made through Moneygram, which had the advantage to the fraudsters of being very difficult to trace but in two cases students had problems with their banks and asked to pay by electronic transfer.
“They were sent an email with bank details for an account in the name of Flashclaims Ltd which had been set up by Javaid and opened in the name of that company.”
Miss McCarthy said police gained access to the account and found it had been used for other international online frauds and crimes.
Javaid controlled two accounts in the name of Flashclaims ltd and Stocks was the sole signatory on another called Global Supplies.
The amounts which passed through them varied from as little as £343 to as much as £30,776, which was paid by a woman in Germany who was threatened and blackmailed over the internet.
Miss McCarthy said: “We cannot say they were contacting victims but they provided the means by which the proceeds could be laundered. Their accounts received the money which was transferred.”
She said Javaid told police he was running a claims management company and an online car parts dealership and was taking money out in cash to pay suppliers.
Stocks told police he was asked to set up the account by his former workmate Javaid and had no idea where the money came from or was going.