Belfast Telegraph

Queen's student 'paid £300' in £16m Belfast money laundering operation, court told

Gengqi Wang before Belfast Magistrates' Court on Tuesday
Gengqi Wang before Belfast Magistrates' Court on Tuesday

By Alan Erwin

A university student appeared in court accused of being connected to a £16million money laundering operation centred at a bank in Belfast.

Gengqi Wang is the 12th person to be charged by detectives investigating an alleged cash deposit racket run by a Chinese crime gang.

On Tuesday a judge was told £2.5m in laundered money went through an account the 28-year-old agreed to open in return for being paid £300.

Wang, with an address at Bessfield Avenue in Carrickfergus, faces charges of possessing and transferring criminal property, conspiracy to conceal criminal property and possessing a Barclays bank card in connection with fraud.

He is also accused of drugs offences linked to an alleged attempt to import herbal cannabis. 

According to police the wider operation involves bundles of cash being deposited at a Barclays branch in Belfast city centre and then spread across the United Kingdom.

The PSNI and the National Crime Agency are investigating 8,000 transactions in 22 separate customer accounts between January 2018 and May 2019.  

Lodgments were allegedly made through an ATM system on a daily basis for hours at a time, with details entered for the money to be forwarded on to 3,500 other accounts.

A total of £15.9m, suspected to be the proceeds of unspecified crime, was said to have passed through the accounts.

Opposing Wang's bail application Belfast Magistrates' Court, a detective said £2.5m of the suspected laundered cash was put through an account he set up.

It was claimed that the defendant himself lodged around £10,000 on two or three occasions, as well as providing his PIN details to others.

Defence solicitor Andrew Russell told the court Wang, currently studying at Queen's University in Belfast, was approached by individuals about a "business transaction" to open up a specific bank account.

"They offered to pay him £300 for that (and) he agreed to do that," the lawyer said.

"It was a financial gain he made - he is a student and the money was a substantial help to him."

Mr Russell insisted his client had no idea about the sums of money passing through the account because they never show up as deposits.

Wang was granted bail on conditions including a ban on entering any Barclays branch or opening new bank accounts.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall also prohibited him from leaving Northern Ireland and requested a £1,000 cash surety before he can be released from custody.

He is due to appear in court again in four weeks time.

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