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Published: 18:00, 15 November 2012
An internet cafe owner has been jailed for six years for a complex £1.3m money laundering scam.
Peter Oyewor, 50, of Grieves Road, Gravesend, denied laundering the cash using false passports and other identification documents, but he was sentenced at Maidstone Court.
Oyewor, who worked as a Western Union money transfer agent from his business premises in Gravesend, claimed all the information he used to carry out transactions was given to him by his customers.
The 49-year-old said he had no reason to suspect any were acting unlawfully, he abided by all procedures governing the sending and receiving of money both abroad and into the UK, and that all the transfers he arranged were approved by Western Union.
But it was found he repeatedly “flouted the rules” to allow criminal funds to come into the UK and then be forwarded on to other countries.
Money transfers worth £92,700 were carried out at Benson Logistics in Manor Road, Gravesend, between July and September 2010, and were arranged using false passport details.
A further £1.25million worth of transfers carried out at his second Internet cafe in Plumstead, south east London, between 2007 and 2010 are also alleged to have been carried out using fake identification details.
Instead of money being physically handed over to legitimate customers, Oyewor made up “phantom” customers and then simply forwarding the money electronically to another country.
Many of the transfers originated from the USA, Canada, Australia and Europe and were then mostly sent on to Africa.
Oyewor denied transferring criminal property between July 2007 and September 2010.
The court heard copies of false passports and driving licences were found at his home.
Sentencing Oyewor, Judge Jeremy Carey said he had "been convicted on the clearest evidence of money laundering.
"This case is in the high end of the bracket of serious offences of this kind.
"There was determined offending over a substantial period of years. Offending as a money launderer from late 2007 until late 2010."
Oyewor's case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court (above)
Speaking after the case, Det Sgt Adrian Brown said: "Oyewor operated as a conduit to move vast quantities of money into the UK and then onto Nigeria.
"He appeared to be operating a legitimate UK-based money transfer agency in which people had confidence.
"Little did they know he was then moving their cash to criminals primarily based in Nigeria."
He said Oyewor was not the fraudster, but he played a significant role by laundering the funds.
He added: "I am very pleased with the sentence imposed, which clearly demonstrates the severity of the offences."
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