Gold bars worth £4million laundered by South American drug cartels are seized at Heathrow Airport while en route to Switzerland

A false paperwork trail was created to hide the true origin of the gold 

Gold worth an estimated £4million that was being laundered by South American drug cartels has been seized after arriving at Heathrow Airport.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) reclaimed 104kg in gold bars, some in the shape of hearts, after they were found hidden in the cargo section of a plane in June 2019. 

The haul was being transported from the Cayman Islands to Switzerland via Heathrow, having earlier been shipped to the Caymans on a private jet from Venezuela. 

False paperwork was created to show the origin of the gold as the Dominican Republic, when it actually came from Venezuela, the NCA said. Some of the gang involved in the shipment had historical links to a Colombian cartel, police added. 

At the High Court yesterday, a judge ordered the NCA could seize the valuable metal as it was the proceeds of crime.

The NCA was given a civil recovery order for over 80 per cent of the gold under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The remaining 20 per cent will be returned to companies with a ‘financial interest’ in the gold, the NCA said.

Andy Noyes, NCA branch commander said today: ‘Criminals are attracted to gold as a way of moving drugs money due to the high value contained in relatively small amounts.

‘Our investigation showed this shipment was linked to drug cartels operating out of South America, but we were able to stop it reaching its final destination thanks to established links with overseas partners.

‘This intervention has disrupted the criminal network, stopping them from reinvesting in further criminality that causes harm to our communities.’