Nusret Celik (pictured) was a ‘senior partner’ in a laundering operation shifting money scammed from two pensioners
Jeremy Corbyn’s son wrote a character reference for his money-laundering neighbour who was jailed after pensioners were conned out of £10,000.
Benjamin Corbyn, 32, praised Nusret Celik in a letter read to the judge who went on to jail him for 28 months for laundering money scammed from elderly women.
Nusret Celik was a ‘senior partner’ in a conspiracy to transfer the proceeds of a scam in which two elderly women were called by people posing as police officers and asked to hand over almost £10,000 to help in a ‘top secret’ investigation.
The 38-year-old recruited Aurelio Vigneri, 47, let his account be used for the fraud, and gave him instructions on what to do, where to go and how to behave, as well as keeping him updated as to the progress of the frauds, the court heard.
Judge Emma Nott said: ‘The victims were vulnerable, elderly and likely to be left exceptionally distressed by what had occurred.’
Ben Corbyn (pictured at the 2017 Labour Party conference) wrote a character reference letter for a neighbour who laundered money scammed from pensioners
In mitigation for Celik, defending barrister Tom Nicholson told the crown court that his client’s neighbours in the affluent London borough of Islington – including Benjamin Corbyn, the Labour Leader’s eldest son – had written character references on Celik’s behalf.
Mr Corbyn’s note was not read aloud in the sentencing hearing at Reading Crown Court, but Celik’s barrister told the hearing that it painted a picture of Celik as a ‘charitable and a good figure in the local community.’
Judge Emma Nott (pictured) said that letters including that of Benjamin Corbyn had mitigated her decision
Mr Nicholson said: ‘These paint a picture of this defendant being quite a different type of person. It is a very significant fall for him to be here, almost quite a puzzling situation to have found himself in.’
Judge Nott told Celik, of Islington, north London, that the words from his neighbours, including Mr Corbyn, were a mitigating factor when she came to pass sentence, saying: ‘I take account of all character references, which show the respect with which you are held in your local community.’
However, the judge, sitting at Reading Crown Court, also said to Celik: ‘You were the senior partner, directing Mr Vigneri as to what to do, telling him initially where to go, what to do, how to behave, keeping him involved as to the progress of the frauds.’
Mr Corbyn, a youth football coach for Premier League side Watford, and the eldest of the Labour leader’s three sons with his Chilean ex-wife Claudia Bracchita, declined to comment at the family’s £1.2million home in Islington.
In 2015, his Labour leader father faced a backlash after he sent a letter to magistrates in support of a constituent who had conned cash from the elderly to fund Islamic State terrorists. Mohamed Dahir was later jailed for 21 months.
Ben Corbyn (right) is pictured with Tommy Corbyn, his brother, who owns a hemp shop in London
A friend of Ben Corbyn said: ‘Ben was surprised and saddened to learn of the court charges and criminal activity of Nusret, who is an acquaintance.
‘Ben had no knowledge of and had no reason to suspect the illegal activity which Nusret was involved in, and Ben utterly deplores such activity.’
Judge Nott said the defendants had acted as ‘money men’ and told them: ‘Both of you knew full well that you were involved in a conspiracy to transfer criminal property, the proceeds of fraud.
‘The victims were vulnerable, elderly and likely to be left exceptionally distressed by what had occurred. You did not know who any victims were going to be, but frankly you did not care.
You were willing to be involved in an organised and criminal enterprise in order to obtain money.’
Prosecuting, Chris Stopa said both elderly victims – Heather Bellamy, aged 79 years, and Nancy Williams, aged 83 years – were contacted over the phone by fraudsters in 2016.
The barrister said that Ms Williams was contacted in April and was made to believe she was speaking to a police officer from Newbury before being told to go to her local NatWest bank and withdraw £9,990.
The fraud was foiled when the bank staff took Ms Williams into a side room and telephoned the police, so none of her money was obtained.
Money was obtained, however, from Ms Bellamy who was also contacted in April and told to transfer money to a secure police account, as well as being pestered to transfer sums of £50 and £25 to make purchases.
The fraud only ended when her daughter raised the alarm, the court heard, and Barclays Bank had since refunded her the money which was taken.
Mr Stopa said both Celik and Vigneri were spotted on CCTV footage around various areas of London in groups of other men who were withdrawing hundreds of pounds at a time – the proceeds of the fraud.
The court heard many of those involved had never been identified and the defendants in the dock had not named anyone else.
Vigneri, of Hammersmith, west London, was arrested in May 2016 and Celik was arrested in November 2016 and they both admitted being involved in transferring funds in questioning, the court heard.
Celik, who was interviewed at Islington Police Station, told officers he did not know vulnerable women were being targeted.
However, Judge Nott said Celik had attempted to delete incriminating text messages from his phone before police were able to confiscate the device but the move was scuppered because Vigneri handed over his device when he was arrested with all the messages between the two still in it.
Judge Nott said: ‘There was an attempt to conceal evidence, in fact compelling evidence that reflects your role in these offences.’ She jailed Celik for 28 months and Vigneri for 12 months.
Ben’s brother, Sebastian, 28, is Chief of Staff to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.
Mr Corbyn’s youngest son, Tommy, 26, owns a hemp shop in London selling products made from strains of cannabis.