Men jailed for laundering £2 million taken from University of Sussex
15 February 2013
Five men who attempted to launder, through a network of bank
accounts, more than £2 million stolen from a university are
beginning prison sentences.
The sentences are the culmination of an investigation by Sussex
Police's Money Laundering Investigation Team and the East Midlands
Regional Asset Recovery Team (RART).
The money had been obtained when officials at the University of
Sussex, who thought they were dealing with a legitimate Manchester
construction firm which the university had chosen to carry out a
redevelopment of student accommodation had been deceived by a
That forged invoice instructed the university to pay money into
bank accounts controlled by 37-year-old Gurdip Singh, formerly of
Spencefield Lane, in Leicester.
Also involved in the crime were Singh's business partner Hamel
Bakrania, 36, of Campbell Avenue, Leicester, 50-year-old Dennis
Francis, of King Edward Road, Loughborough, Innocent Ohazurume,
also aged 50, and from Martham Close, in London, and 43-year-old
Andrew Wormstone, of Ashworth Road, Pontefract, in West
In October 2010, the university made a payment to what was
thought to be the Manchester construction firm, but in fact was
paid into the account of a business set up by Singh, operating
under the name Balecourt Ltd.
The offenders planned to transfer the money via several
transactions of sums running into hundreds of thousands of pounds
into other bank accounts in order to disguise its origin.
The Balecourt account was accessed by a number of the
conspirators before the theft was discovered a few days after the
payment had been made. The discovery was made by the RART, part of
the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU).
RART then notified and began working closely with Sussex Police,
which led the subsequent investigation, codenamed Operation
The account was immediately frozen and almost all the money
transferred out of the reach of the defendants, who had been able
to access just £20,000.
Singh and Bakrania made repeated attempts to persuade the bank
to release the funds, and telephone records showed frequent
correspondence between them and Francis and Ohazurume. It is
believed that another man, who has not been traced, was also
involved in the plot.
Having failed to convince the bank that the cash was obtained
legitimately, Singh and Bakrania enlisted Wormstone, a Leeds-based
solicitor, who sent documents to the bank which purported to show
that Singh and Bakrania were clients of his and that he was acting
on their behalf in high value land deals. None of those deals
Singh was arrested in November 2010 and a search of his home
revealed documents and other evidence linking him to Bakrania,
Francis, Ohazurume and Wormstone. All were subsequently
Singh, Bakrania, Francis, Wormstone and Ohuzurume were charged
with arranging to launder the money stolen from the University.
Singh pleaded guilty to the charges on 4 December 2012, but his
four co-accused denied having been involved in an arrangement to
launder the money. They were tried at Leicester Crown Court and
convicted earlier this month.
Appearing at Nottingham Crown Court for sentencing on Thursday
and Friday (14 and 15 February), Singh received a sentence of three
years and ten months for his part in the laundering.
He was then given a consecutive sentence of three years and nine
months after admitting a number of offences relating to an
unconnected fraudulent property investment scheme. He was also
given a concurrent sentence of two years and eight months for
pleading guilty to his involvement in the manufacture of
counterfeit designer clothing items. Both these matters involve
other defendants who have pleaded not guilty and are due to be
tried later this year. None of these offences relate to Sussex.
Bakrania was jailed for three-and-a-half years, while Francis
and Ohazurume were each sentenced to three years in prison.
Wormstone received a sentence of two-and-a-half years in prison and
will now be struck off from practicing as a solicitor.
Detective Constable Nigel Tillings of Sussex Police investigated
the offence, codenamed Operation Theta.
After sentencing, he said: "It has taken just over two years to
complete this investigation and prosecution of this organized crime
"Offenders in these types of offences will always be looking for
assistance from others in moving the stolen money and also to
distance themselves from the offending. If successful, then
these people would have received payment for their part, but in
this case they have been caught.
"Hopefully these sentences will act as a deterrent to others who
may find themselves in a similar situation and make them ask the
question 'Is it worth it?'"
Detective Inspector Nick Allwood, of the East Midlands Regional
Asset Recovery Team, said: "These dishonest individuals were driven
by greed and opportunity. They were involved in a
thoroughly-planned and highly-organised criminal operation at a
nationwide level. I have no doubt that had the £2 million fraud not
been identified and the stolen funds secured as quickly as it was
it would have been transferred out of the country within days. This
would have resulted in significant loss to Sussex University.
"The partnership of the East Midlands Regional Asset Recovery
Team, Sussex Police and the Prosecution Team resulted in the
offence being quickly identified and the offenders being brought to
justice. We will continue to work closely with other law
enforcement agencies to ensure such criminals are prosecuted
including dishonest professionals who choose to assist them.
"Asset confiscation proceedings will now be pursued to ensure
the benefit from this crime is recovered."
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