Man jailed for money laundering and possessing criminal property - Herts

09/05/2012

An illegal immigrant who received Indian Gold jewellery stolen from homes all over the country was jailed for 7-years on Wednesday, 09 May 2012.

Ukrainian Yaroslav Kostenko, 30, took the gold jewellery -  much of which was custom made for Asian family weddings - to Hatton Garden in London where it was melted down.

Kostenko collected the gold from travellers who had carried out the burglaries and in less than 18-months, as the price of gold soared, was paid £1.6 million.

He used his share of the cash to set up an antiques' business with his partner in the Cotswolds, St Albans Crown Court was told.

When Kostenko was stopped in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes on the M40 near Uxbridge in West London on 18 May last year the police found a large bag full of gold wedding jewellery taken from homes in Essex, Northampton and Slough. He told officers that the day before he had collected the jewellery from travellers he met near the M3 and he was taking it to Hatton Garden.

Hertfordshire Police's Serious Organised Crime Unit went to Kostenko's antique shop, Victor Creations, in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. Searches were carried out there and at other properties and around 5000 items including jewellery, watches and paintings were seized.

The police released photos on Facebook and a video on YouTube in an attempt to reunite owners with their property, which had been stolen in the past three years. The items recovered were linked to 26 burglaries and one theft carried out between October 2007 and May 2011.

Kostenko, who had come to the UK on a 6-month student visa in 2002, was to tell the police that he was "trusted" by the travellers who had stolen the jewellery. He would receive it from them and take it to Hatton Garden to be melted down.

Simon Wilshire, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Inquiries led the police to a company in Hatton Garden.  Records from the 18-months prior to Kostenko's arrest showed he had received £1.629 million of gold. In the previous 10-months alone he had received £1,586.484.

"He was a significant handler of golden jewellery and other property which came to him from the travelling community. The crown accept some money was returned to the travelling community. He was their go-between," said the prosecutor.

His chauffeur was to tell the police that among the places he had driven Kostenko to were: Hatton Garden, Chipping Norton, Oxford, Northampton, Leicester and Nottingham.

Kostenko, who has a partner and child, of West Street, Chipping Norton pleaded guilty to money laundering and possessing criminal property. He had no work record in the UK and had set up an antiques' business in his partner's name in 2008. Later in the year his assets will be the subject of confiscation proceedings.

Defence barrister Mohammed Bashir said he was an "educated man who had set up a bona fide antiques business." He said he had received "little commission" and had deeply regretted what he had done.

Jailing him, Judge Stephen Gullick said: "In just under 18 months you received £1,629 million in cash from a company in Hatton Garden. They bought jewellery from you and melted it down. That jewellery could never be reunited with its owners."

The judge went on: "The sums of money involved were enormous and the distress of those who were burgled was considerable.

"You were a willing participant in a extensive criminal enterprise. You went in with your eyes wide open to make money out of those who burgled the houses. This enterprise was on a very considerable scale. It must be made clear to those who intentionally receive stolen property that a substantial sentence will follow."

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