SINGAPORE - Gold bars worth £650,000 (S$1.2 million) that were found in a Singaporean woman's hand luggage have been formally seized by British authorities in a case that has been linked to international money laundering.
The woman was transiting through London's Heathrow Airport in March 2020 after arriving from Singapore.
She then tried to take the 15 gold bars onto her next flight to Chennai, India.
But she was stopped by British Border Force officers, who found the gold bars in her hand luggage and seized them as suspected criminal proceeds.
On Wednesday (Jan 26), Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) was granted forfeiture of the gold bars after a two-day hearing at the Uxbridge Magistrates' Court in West London.
The woman, who was not named, was allowed to continue on her journey after the gold was initially seized. She was not arrested or prosecuted.
An NCA spokesman told The Straits Times that the gold was seized under Britain's Proceeds of Crime Act, which allows the bars to be detained while the NCA looks into their origins. The matter then goes before the courts, where there is an opportunity to contest the seizure.
As further investigations needed to be done, there were no reasonable grounds for pursuing criminal proceedings, said the NCA.
The woman had initially told NCA investigators that she was taking the gold bars from a jeweller in Singapore to another jeweller in Chennai.
She had no explanation for her strange routing via London, NCA said.
Further inquiries revealed that invoices the woman was carrying for the gold bars were fake, and that the Chennai jeweller did not exist.
Investigations point to the gold bars belonging to a criminal money-laundering network that is active in Europe and Asia.
NCA Branch Commander Andy Noyes said in a statement: "Gold is an attractive commodity for criminals to use to move money because relatively small amounts can have a high value...
"We think they were attempting to move them through London to try and disguise their routing, and avoid the attention of Indian law enforcement upon arrival there."