Edward Cohen, 67, set up a ‘bewildering’ network of companies which he used to launder £10million made from the illegal sale of fake prescriptions, Southwark Crown Court heard
A fugitive who once tried to buy a knighthood has been convicted of laundering more than £10million, made from the illegal sale of sex pills, through a Jewish charities scam.
Edward Cohen, 67, set up a ‘bewildering’ network of companies, some of them promoting Orthodox Judaism and ‘helping the Jewish poor’.
He diverted vast sums of cash, alongside legitimate charitable donations, via foreign exchange firms before sending it overseas, Southwark Crown Court heard.
Cohen, who fled the country before his trial began, also used some of the proceeds to try and purchase a gong from the Queen, supposedly in recognition of his work with the sham charities.
Cohen’s teacher son David, 38, was also involved in the charities but was cleared of money laundering charges and supplying false information to the Charity Commission.
But he was convicted of failing to notify a change in circumstances when obtaining benefits and bailed ahead of sentence on July 4.
David told jurors his signature had been forged on charity documents and insisted he had no idea what his crooked father was up to.
He said: ‘If I had known that my father was involved in any sort of dirty money I would have run a mile. I would not have not asked for his help, no way Jose.
‘I am sure I am not the only child who does not know how their father makes money.’
Cohen denied but was convicted in his absence of a series of offences including supplying false information to the Charity Commission and money laundering offences after a two month trial.
A warrant has been issued for his arrest and he will be sentenced in his absence on July 4.
Edward Cohen, 67, set up a ‘bewildering’ network of companies that he used to launder money through. He diverted vast sums of cash, alongside legitimate charitable donations, via foreign exchange firms before sending it overseas, Southwark Crown Court heard
Earlier James Dawes, QC, prosecuting, said Cohen set up a ‘bewildering variety of companies and they either put themselves or their family members as directors’.
‘The companies were simply vehicles. Either the Revenue was told these companies were dormant or they made no returns.’
Cohen used some of the cash, paying Awards Intelligence firm £4,800 in a bid to win an honour from the Queen.
Cohen’s teacher son David, 38, was also involved in the charities but was cleared of money laundering charges and supplying false information to the Charity Commission
He hid the vast sums from the taxman by lying on returns and misleading the charities watchdog.
Mr Dawes said the assortment of charities and businesses brought in an average of around £1.7million a year between 2008 and 2011.
‘In 2012 there is an enormous jump to £8million,’ he explained.
‘You may think that something happened in those two years, 2012 to 13 and 2013 to 14, to give these companies a huge boost in income.
‘In total, £18.7 million was received by these companies.
‘The investigators discovered two distinct sources of money which make up this £18.7 million,’ said Mr Dawes.
The first source of the money was from charitable donations which investigators are satisfied were genuine.
The second source of money was from ‘unlawful, illegal sales of medication online’, according to Mr Dawes.
He said: ‘The vast majority of them are bought abroad in either France, Austria, Germany or Spain.
‘These drugs are Viagra, types of Viagra, slimming pills, pills that apparently stop smoking and a number of prescription drugs.
The prosecutor explained that these payments would go through merchant accounts that are commonly connected to online shops.
‘£10million from online pills goes into these merchant accounts.
‘This is criminal money and they sent it and changed it elsewhere. That £10.27million was then sent to a variety of different destinations.’
He said cash was laundered through foreign exchange companies and cheque cashing firms, then sent abroad to countries included Cyprus, Hong Kong, Panama, China and America.
‘Effectively, what we are seeing here, you may think, is money laundering on a gigantic scale.’
Edward Cohen, of Stamford Hill, north London, was convicted of supplying false information to the Charity Commission, one count of becoming concerned in criminal property, acquiring criminal property and theft.
He was acquitted of a further count of becoming concerned in criminal property.
David Cohen, of Golders Green, north London, denied but was convicted of failing to notify a change in circumstances when obtaining benefits.
He was acquitted of becoming concerned in criminal property, acquiring criminal property, theft and of supplying false information to the Charity Commission.