Student who went on luxury spending sprees and laundered nearly £85,000 for crime boss jailed

A student who laundered nearly £85,000 for a crime boss has been jailed for 18 months.

Xiaotong Huang, 28, used the cash to pay her tuition fees at the University of Stirling and went on luxury spending sprees that included buying designer items and expensive wines.

Sums totalling £160,000 were washed through four bank accounts belonging to Huang, however she was convicted of laundering £84,912.

Spending from one account alone totalled £12,479 and included items bought from Gucci, Burberry and Coach as well as £797 on goods from Harrods.

She also purchased £6,900 worth of wine over two separate payments one week apart and spent £480 on a Louis Vuitton bag.

Huang was sentenced in Stirling on Thursday after being convicted following a trial at Falkirk Sheriff Court in March.

The jury found her guilty of charges under proceeds of crime legislation, aggravated by her connection to serious and organised crime.

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The court heard Huang arrived in Scotland from China in 2019 on a temporary student visa, which allowed her to work a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time.

However, there was no record of HMRC activity or of any benefits having been paid to Huang, who had no visible income stream.

Prosecutors enlisted a financial intelligence analyst to forensically examine her accounts and compile an itemised breakdown of her banking activities.

They pieced together her life of crime by following the trail of complex transactions, which revealed how the money was transferred into her accounts by multiple third parties.

The scheme began to unravel in April 2021, when undercover police officers were carrying out surveillance on an individual suspected of high-level money laundering for a Scottish organised crime group dealing in illegal drugs.

Huang, wearing a cream coat with distinctive red sleeves and with a mask over her face, was seen leaving the man’s Mercedes in Stirling carrying a brown paper bag.

Minutes later, undercover surveillance officers saw her produce an inch-and-a-half thick bundle of cash from the bag and depositing £3,500 at a Post Office travel money counter within Stirling’s Thistle Shopping Centre.

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On itemising the transactions in and out of the various accounts, the criminal intelligence analyst noted that the accused moved money between accounts numerous times a day and in varying amounts.

Huang was arrested the same month at her home, with police officers identifying the cream coat which was draped over a chair.

Deputy Crown Agent Kenny Donnelly, specialist casework, said he hoped the sentence would be a deterrent to others.

He said: “Money laundering is not a victimless crime and plays an integral role in a complex, large-scale operation which facilitates the criminal activity of others.

“I hope this conviction demonstrates the ability of police and prosecutors to investigate, prepare and prosecute serious and organised crime of this nature.

“The Crown will continue working with the police and other agencies as a member of Scotland’s Serious and Organised Crime Taskforce to ensure that these crimes are detected and those responsible prosecuted using all measures at our disposal.”