Tag Archive: France

Ringleader of gang who laundered over £107 million stripped of assets

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The ringleader of a gang, who laundered more than £107m of underworld cash through their London bureaux de change, has been stripped of property in the UK, France, Sri Lanka and India to repay his criminal income.

Ramanathan Thayaparan, 45, was jailed for nine years in May 2014 after an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) revealed organised crime associates would queue with unsuspecting tourists to convert bags of dirty money into easy concealable €500 notes at the bureaux de change.

For a fee the gang, led by Thayaparan, who was supposed to be the business’s designated money laundering reporting officer, turned a blind eye to strict regulations governing checks on the source of cash at their two Victoria foreign exchange outlets.

The fraud allowed Thayaparan to build a £1.3m property portfolio comprising homes in London, Paris, Chennai in India, and land in Sri Lanka. But yesterday, the conman was moved from his prison cell and put back before a judge to be stripped of his assets.

Nicol Sheppard, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “The message from the hearing couldn’t be clearer: abuse your position to launder money and we’ll lock you up.

“Thayaparan exploited his role to line his pockets, but we left no stone unturned in picking apart his finances and identifying his assets – even those offshore. Money laundering is a serious offence and people like Thayaparan and his associates sustain organised criminals by legitimising their ill-gotten gains.

“We relentlessly pursue those engaging in money laundering, ensuring they face the full force of the law, and I urge anyone with information about those involved to contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

And Sian Davies, from CPS Proceeds of Crime, said: “Ramanathan Thayaparan was prosecuted and jailed for his part in a calculated scheme to launder large amounts of cash through a London money exchange.

“The CPS’s work did not stop at conviction and we worked closely with HMRC to restrain and confiscate his assets in order to recover as much money as possible for the taxpayer.

“We are determined that criminals will not feel the benefit of their offending.”

At Southwark Crown Court on 28 September 2017, His Honour Judge Marc Dight made an order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 requiring Thayaparan to pay back £1,382,707 within three months, or face a further seven and a half years in prison.

His accomplices, Thillainathan Kumarathas, serving a five-year sentence, and Dinesh Kumar Anandan, who has served a two-year sentence, were ordered to repay £23,520.61 and £37,500 respectively at a hearing in September 2015.

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“It’s a magnificent word”: Sting sings ‘Inshallah’ at re-opening of the Bataclan

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BAD TASTE?: Sting sang the Arabic expression and the audience applauded

BAD TASTE?: Sting sang the Arabic expression and the audience applauded

Almost exactly one year to the night that Daesh-affiliated terrorists attacked the Bataclan, killing 89 people, Sting reopened the Parisian concert hall that he first played decades ago as part of his group the Police.

In fluent French, the singer asked the crowd for a moment of silence. He then said: “In re-opening the Bataclan, we have two important tasks to reconcile.

“Firstly, to remember and honour those who lost their lives in the attack a year ago, and second to celebrate the life and the music that this historic theatre represents.

“In doing so we hope to respect the memory as well as the life-affirming spirit of those who fell. We shall not forget them."

The venue's VIP area was reserved for survivors and the families of those who were killed there on 13th November, 2015.

One survivor, 25-year-old Aurelien Perrin, who lost his friend Nicolas Berthier in the attack, told the Associated Press about his experience that night and what brought him back to the Bataclan.

“I came alone tonight,” he said. “It’s very emotional, as I keep getting flashbacks of that night. I was standing just there, just the other side of the bar when it happened. Tonight is the first time I’ve been back here since.

“I’m here because it’s important to finally finish a concert that was never allowed to end. It’s for the memory of my friend and for all the 90 people who died,” he added.

Though the concert was dedicated to the people lost that night, Sting also made an effort to include those who share the same religion or ethnic background with the terrorists.

Sting sang the Arabic expression ‘Inshallah’ calling it ‘a magnificent word’ and the room clapped in response.

On 13th November  last year, the assailants burst through the music hall’s main entrance and sprayed automatic gunfire into the crowd as the Californian rock band Eagles of Death Metal played on stage.

During a more than two-hour long assault, the attackers killed some victims and took others hostage.

The attack ended after one militant was shot dead and the other two killed themselves by detonating explosive vests. Other gunmen and suicide bombers targeted a soccer stadium and several cafes in Paris. In all, the Daesh militants killed 130 people.

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France church attack: Daesh kill Catholic priest in a Normandy church

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BARBARIC ATTACK: Father Jacques Hamel was killed whilst he was performing mass in the suburb of Rouen

BARBARIC ATTACK: Father Jacques Hamel was killed whilst he was performing mass in the suburb of Rouen

France is still reeling after an 86-year-old Catholic priest was killed - and four other people taken hostage - by two armed men who stormed a Normandy church in a suburb of Rouen, in northern France.

The attack, on 26th July, is the latest in a string of deadly assaults in Europe, including a massacre in the southern French city of Nice on Bastille Day, and five incidents in Germany.

Officials say the two attackers, who said they were from Daesh, slit Father Jacques Hamel's throat during a morning Mass.

One of four people taken hostage - said to be an elderly parishioner - suffered severe knife wounds and remains in a critical condition in hospital.

ALLEGIANCE TO DAESH: Most of the photos on Adel Kermiche’s Facebook page show him as a younger youth

ALLEGIANCE TO DAESH: Most of the photos on Adel Kermiche’s Facebook page show him as a younger youth

Police surrounded the church and shot dead both hostage-takers. French media named them as 18-year-old Adel Kermiche and 19-year-old Abdel Malik Petitjean.

Following the attack, Daesh released a video of what it said were the two men pledging allegiance to the group.

Both men were known to the security services and one was reportedly wearing an electronic monitoring tag as part of his bail conditions. 

Adel Kermiche is reported to have been in custody and then placed under a control order, and had also tried to enter Syria twice.

The attack happened during morning Mass, situated in the tranquil square of St-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

Sister Danielle, a nun, said she was inside the church during the attack.

She told French media: “They forced Father Hamel to his knees. He wanted to defend himself, and that's when the tragedy happened.

“They recorded themselves. They did a sort of sermon around the altar, in Arabic. It's a horror.”

She said she managed to escape as they were preparing to kill him.

Father Jacquest Hamel has been described as ‘devoted’ to his parish and was well-known in the town, engaging with everybody.

President Francois Hollande, visiting the scene in Saint Etienne-du-Rouvray, said the attackers had committed a ‘cowardly assassination’ and France would fight Daesh ‘by all means’.

Pope Francis was shocked at the ‘pain and horror of [the] absurd violence’.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the attack was ‘sickening’ and offered her condolences to the people of France.

 

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Modesty & Spencers

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CONTENTIOUS: M&S Collection’s burkini has been causing ripples of controversy in France (Pic Credit: M&S online)

CONTENTIOUS: M&S Collection’s burkini has been causing ripples of controversy in France (Pic Credit: M&S online)

Burkini ‘irresponsible’ says France

Britain’s shoppers are growing increasingly diverse, and in a sign of the times, Marks and Spencer has decided to stock a range of funky burkinis in their shops.

The burkini, which helps wearers retain their modesty whilst swimming and bathing, made headlines in 2011 after TV chef Nigella Lawson donned one when holidaying on Bondi Beach in Australia.

The M&S version - costing £49.50 - is a lightweight, three-piece full body suit which promises to ‘cover the whole body with the exception of the face, hands and feet, without compromising on style’.

In branches of the chain in Dubai and Libya, where it has been on sale for three years, the product has flown off the shelves.

However, when France heard that the quintessentially British brand were selling the modest fashion item, their women’s right’s minister,  Laurence Rossignol, slammed the move.

Ms Rossignol said to RMC radio: “What’s at stake is social control over women’s bodies. When brands invest in this Islamic garment market, they are shirking their responsibilities and are promoting women’s bodies being locked up.”

She continued: “You cannot pass off as trivial and harmless the fact that big brands are investing in a market that puts Muslim women in a situation of having to wear that.”

The Guardian’s Remona Aly said: “If I want to buy a burkini from M&S, I bloody well will.

“I think it’s about time that the patronising is sewn up once and for all. The hypocrisy of a fashion guru telling women what not to wear and a minister of women’s rights taking away the right of choosing to cover up, isn’t lost on me.”

The burkinis are available online from M&S and will soon be available to buy in the UK at the company’s flagship store in Marble Arch, London.

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‘Compassion is the winner’: Shipley man avoids prison sentence

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RELIEF: Rob Lawrie was handed a suspended fine for attempting to smuggle four-year-old Bru into the UK from a French refugee camp

RELIEF: Rob Lawrie was handed a suspended fine for attempting to smuggle four-year-old Bru into the UK from a French refugee camp

A father-of-four from Britian, who faced up to five years in prison for attempting to smuggle a Syrian child into the UK from France, has instead been handed a suspended £1,000 fine by a French Court.

Rob Lawrie appeared at a packed hearing at the Tribunal Grande Instance in Boulogne on Thursday, charged with attempting to smuggle four-year-old refugee, Bahar Ahmadi - known as Bru, over the border.

The Shipley man explained how his ‘moment of madness’ had come about after connecting with Bru’s family during his aid visits and agreed to attempt to unite her with family already living in the UK.  

Facing up to five years in a French prison, family and supporters of Mr Lawrie erupted with celebrations as the judge Louis-Benoit Betermiez ordered the former soldier to pay a fine of 1,000 euros for endangering a child’s life, suspended for five years.

Speaking outside court, Mr Lawrie told reporters: “Compassion has been in the dock here. France has sent out a message that when compassion is done from the heart, not to make money, not to benefit from it but when it is done really from the heart, France has sent out a message that compassion will win.”

An online petition with more than 52,000 signatures, calling on the UK government to intercede in the case, was delivered to the Foreign Office last week, whilst another appeal, open to people outside of the UK, received in excess of 116,000 backers.

He had hidden Bru in a small sleeping compartment in his van when he was stopped at the border.

Mr Lawrie told the court how his marriage had broken down, his business had failed, and that he had tried to kill himself following his arrest.

He added that he now felt ‘light’ as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

“I’m going to have a few days off and then I’m going to raise the profile [of refugees] even more because we cannot simply leave these children,” he said.

“We need to get these children into our education system now because these guys are going to be doctors and lawyers and teachers if we get them now and educate them correctly.

“Or we can leave them in The Jungle to rot and die of cold.”

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From Bradford to Dunkirk

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CONVOY: The SKT Welfare team distributed goods to refugee camps in France and Belgium

CONVOY: The SKT Welfare team distributed goods to refugee camps in France and Belgium

Yorkshire convoy return from the Jungle

A convoy of ten fully-loaded vans set off from Bradford to France last weekend as 35 volunteers made the 300-mile journey over the English Channel to distribute aid to refugees.

The team, representing the SKT Welfare Charity, drove to the Grand-Synthe Refugee Camp in Dunkirk, where over 300 fleeing people are currently staying in cramped conditions.

Distributing food, clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, tents and other essential items, the team met with Syrian and Iraqi refugees and witnessed the ‘shocking’ accommodation, some were living in.

Makeshift tents were propped up with cardboard boxes and pallets, whilst wind blew through the sheets.

With winter months coming up, the distribution team also delivered ‘winter warmer packs’ – including hats, gloves and warm clothing, to fight against the cold.

AID: The Little Brussels Camp was visited by the group on their three-day aid mission

AID: The Little Brussels Camp was visited by the group on their three-day aid mission

Food items were also delivered in Dunkirk to the Al-Salam Charity’s warehouse, where a French team of volunteers will cook and distribute the goods to two refugee camps in the region.

During the three-day trip, the SKT Welfare team also drove over to Brussels, Belgium, after hearing of further Syrian refugees who were in need of ‘urgent help’ in a separate camp.

Upon arrival at the Maximillian Park Refugee Camp, the team once again witnessed crowds in huge number with almost 1,000 refugees from middle-eastern and African countries.

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Once again, food, winter warmer and aid packs were handed out before the team visited the smaller ‘Little Castle Refugee Centre’ to complete their aid mission.

Worldwide figures suggest that the number of refugees currently stands at over 50million for the first time.

Syria, which has been at the centre of much news in recent years, has seen more than four-million refugees flee, with 12.8 million people still in urgent need of humanitarian assistance inside the country.

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Imams head to Paris

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CONDOLENCES: Imam Qari Asim, from Leeds’ Makkah Masjid, was part of the four-person team who visited Paris at the start of February

CONDOLENCES: Imam Qari Asim, from Leeds’ Makkah Masjid, was part of the four-person team who visited Paris at the start of February

Muslims told to ‘reclaim’ peaceful religion from minority fanatics who have ‘hijacked’ it

A group of British imams headed to the French capital’s oldest synagogue earlier this month to meet with Jewish and Muslim leaders in an attempt to strengthen interfaith relations.

In January, four people were killed at a Jewish grocery store by an armed gunman just two days after the shootings at Charlie Hebdo offices. Both attacks were carried out by Islamic extremists.

During the British group’s recent visit, they offered support to both communities and spoke with representatives about current concerns and anxieties they are experiencing.

Imam Qari Asim, of Leeds’ Makkah Masjid, was one of the delegates who made the trip and said British imams felt ‘compelled’ to visit the nation to show solidarity between Muslim and Jewish communities.

“Our faith, Islam, preaches us that every life, regardless of faith and race, is sacred,” he said. “Grief and pain at the loss of a life, therefore, transcends the boundaries of race and religion.

“The recent barbaric attacks on Jewish community have affected us all in the West. They have sent a wave of fear amongst the Jewish community and concern amongst Muslims.”

He added: “Imams – British and French – were resolute not to let terrorists dictate the course of history and divide communities.

“It was not the terrorists who shed blood in Paris, but the Muslim worker in the kosher supermarket, Lassana Bathily, who is a hero to Muslims. It will not be terrorists but Lassana who will continue to inspire generations.”

RELATIONS: Imams from the UK meet with Jewish representatives inside Paris’ La Victoire Synagogu

RELATIONS: Imams from the UK meet with Jewish representatives inside Paris’ La Victoire Synagogu

As well as speaking with members of the different communities, the imams were also taken to the actual kosher supermarket where the attacks took place in January, as well as a number of synagogues to meet with rabbis and imams from France.

The Muslim population in the country is the second biggest religious grouping, and Mr Asim says the message he received from representatives of the demo-graphic was that the community was being ‘blamed’ for the acts of terrorists.

“[We] shared the concern that Muslims have suffered at the hands of violent extremists more than any other community and the deep scars of terrorism have disfigured the ‘Muslim body’,” he said.

“This calls for an intelligent strategy to defeat the toxic ideology at an intellectual and practical level.

“[We] highlighted some of the best practice that is prevalent amongst British Muslims and our institutions. More importantly, what were the factors that made British Muslims proud of both our religious and national identity.”

Mr Asim added that despite such beliefs, the group were ‘warmly welcomed’ by the Council of Jewish Insitution of France (CRIF) during a pre-arranged, constructive meeting.

An open and ‘frank’ dialogue took place between the two groups regarding the challenges that lie ahead and the steps that need to be taken, jointly, to overcome them.

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