A woman has been jailed for 34 months after being found at Heathrow Airport with five suitcases stuffed with nearly £2m in cash.

Tara Hanlon, 30, of Pelham Court, Leeds, pleaded guilty at Isleworth Crown Court in June to money laundering offences worth more than £5m.

She was arrested as she tried to board a flight to Dubai on 3 October 2020 with more than £1.9m in cash.

Hanlon previously claimed to have “the perfect life” due to her job.

suitcase full of money
Hanlon was boarding a flight to Dubai at Heathrow Airport when she was caught

Border officials said the find was the largest individual cash seizure at the UK border in 2020.

Hanlon previously admitted three counts of removing criminal property relating to cash amounts of £1.4m on 14 July, £1.1m on 10 August and £1m on 31 August 2020.

The court heard that on the day she was arrested, Hanlon was stopped at the airport by a customs official when travelling with a friend to Dubai.

When asked about the purpose of the visit and her luggage, she said she was going on a “girls’ trip” and that she had checked-in the five suitcases because she “wasn’t sure what to wear” while there.

‘Perfect life’

The money was discovered in vacuum-packed bundles which had been hidden under coffee in an apparent attempt to disguise the haul from sniffer dogs.

In a prepared statement to investigators, Hanlon said it was the first trip she had taken, that she was not being paid and she believed it to be legal as the money would be declared in Dubai.

However, inquiries with the airline and a search of her phone revealed she had made three previous visits in July and August as a courier and had been paid about £3,000 for each trip.

In text messages, she bragged: “Three big ones… with this wage and the next my debts go bye.”

Other messages referred to the job as a “perfect life, a few days in the sun and a few at home”.

Cash in suitcase
Officials said the £1.9m find in October was the largest individual cash seizure made at the UK border in 2020

The National Crime Agency discovered Hanlon had declared she was carrying more than £1m in cash upon arrival on each occasion, totalling £3.5m.

Stephen Grattage, defending, claimed Hanlon was vulnerable at the time of the offences following the sudden death of her mother in March and having been furloughed from her job shortly afterwards due to the Covid pandemic.

However, sentencing, Judge Karen Holt told her: “Although you were vulnerable at the time, I don’t find that you have been exploited and find that you knew what you were doing.”

Source: BBC