A Kim Kardashian-lookalike has been jailed for nearly three years over more than £5million worth of money-laundering offences after she was stopped at Heathrow Airport with five suitcases full of nearly £2million in cash on her way to Dubai.
Recruitment consultant Tara Hanlon, 30, who worked for a recruitment firm in Leeds and underwent cosmetic surgery to try and look like her idol Kim Kardashian, was held as she tried to board a flight to the United Arab Emirates city last October with more than £1.9million in cash.
The find, vacuum packed in five suitcases and covered in ground coffee to hide the smell from sniffer dogs, was described at the time as the largest individual cash seizure at the border that year.
Hanlon pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to remove criminal property from England and Wales between July 13 and October 4 last year, which has been left to lie on file.
But she admitted three counts of removing criminal property, relating to cash amounts of £1.4million on July 14, £1.1million on August 10 and £1million on August 31 last year. The defendant also pleaded guilty to attempting to remove £1.9million in criminal cash from the country on the day she was arrested.
Prosecutor Nathan Rasiah told the court that the charges related to three trips taken to Dubai last summer and one failed attempt in October.
The court heard that on October 3, 2020, the defendant was stopped at the airport by a customs official when travelling with a friend to Dubai.
When asked about the purpose of the visit and her luggage, the defendant said she was going on a ‘girls’ trip’ and that she had checked in the five suitcases because she ‘wasn’t sure what to wear’.
The defendant denied that she was travelling with cash on her person or in her luggage, but was subsequently taken into custody and arrested for money laundering.
In a statement Harlon said she was making her first trip and that she was not being paid and believed it to be legal as the money would be declared in Dubai.
She claimed she had been asked to fly out to provide a hair service for a contact, who later turned out to be her recruiter, in return for free flights and accommodation, and that she had been handed the bags by a driver in London.
However, inquiries with the airline and a search of the defendant’s phone by authorities revealed that she had made three previous visits in July and August as a courier, and had been paid around £3,000 for each trip.
After liaising with authorities in Dubai, the National Crime Agency discovered Hanlon had declared she was carrying more than a million pounds in cash upon arrival on each occasion, totaling £3.5million.
Hanlon’s lawyer claimed that Hanlon was vulnerable at the time of the offences following the sudden death of her mother in March. However, during sentencing, Judge Karen Holt told her: ‘Although you were vulnerable at the time, I don’t find that you have been exploited and find that you knew what you were doing.’
She was sentenced to two years and 10 months.