Four men who formed a international serious organised crime syndicate specialising in money laundering and fraud have each been jailed for nearly five years each.
The Latvian men aged between 30 and 38 encouraged people from their home nation to come to Britain – offering to provide travel, accommodation and work.
But upon their arrival in the UK, the people were told they were ‘in debt’ to the gang – and were forced to open bank accounts before handing over their details and cards.
They were sent to work in locations across the UK, and the gang retained control over their earnings. Refusal to co-operate met with threats of violence and assaults.
Hardijs Langsteins (left), 37, of Salford, and Maris Kursis (right), 30, of Falkirk, were convicted
Hardijs Langsteins, 37, Maris Kursis, 30, Arvids Civkors, 30, and Aivars Dzagarjans, 38, have been convicted of carrying out illegal activity between 2012 and 2016.
But Langsteins, of Salford; Kursis, of Falkirk; Civkors, of Edinburgh; and Dzagarjans, from Northumberland, were acquitted of people trafficking charges.
Sheriff Thomas Welsh QC told the men they had all been convicted of very serious offences involving organised crime – and he did not accept an application for bail.
The judge gave the men jail terms of four years and 11 months each. He said: ‘The offences were highly sophisticated and were executed with meticulous precision.’
Sheriff Welsh also spoke at Edinburgh Sheriff Court of the ‘impact that it had on the individuals named on the indictment and the banking system in general’.
Arvids Civkors (left), 30, of Edinburgh, and Aivars Dzagarjans (right), 38, from Forth, Northumberland, were convicted of carrying out illegal activity between 2012 and 2016
Michael Anderson, defending Langsteins, said his client accepted that he would face imprisonment, but insisted that he had not greatly benefited from his life of crime.
Philip Cohen, for Civkors, said his client’s involvement in the scam was minimal and that Sheriff Welsh could consider a ‘direct alternative’ to jailing him.
But the men were all jailed and now face actions under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The case against them under this legislation will be heard next month on January 15.
Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Healy said Police Scotland were ‘pleased’ with the sentences for the men who had ‘exploited vulnerable victims for financial gain’.
Procurator fiscal Jennifer Harrower added that the men had played ‘an integral role in a complex, large scale operation which facilitated the criminal activity of others’.