Page last updated at 16:01 GMT, Monday, 28 September 2009 17:01 UK

Will police find missing millions?

By Chris Summers
BBC News

Six people have now been convicted of involvement in Britain's biggest cash robbery. Some of the money was recovered, but what has happened to the rest?

Elderden Farm
The money was first taken to Elderden Farm in Kent

Of the £53m the robbers took from the Securitas depot in Tonbridge, Kent, in the early hours of 22 February 2006, about £21m has been recovered. The search continues for the remaining £32m.

Securitas reimbursed the Bank of England after the raid - and their insurers are already on the trail.

In 1983 robbers stole gold valued at £26m from the Brinks Mat depot near Heathrow Airport.

Three years later, Brinks Mat's insurers employed a team of experts led by lawyer Bob McCunn, who spent 20 years pursuing a number of people through civil courts both in Britain and abroad, and recovered £27m.

The team, which included "forensic accountants", found the money had been invested in property as far away as Spain, Florida and Kansas.

Civil action has not yet begun in the Securitas case but Mr McCunn said the robbers would be wrong to think the insurers had just written off the missing money.

Stashed

After the raid, the robbers drove their lorry, loaded with half a tonne of cash, most of it in £10 and £20 notes, to Elderden Farm near Staplehurst in Kent.

Outbuildings at the farm were used without the knowledge of the owner, John Fowler, who was later acquitted of all charges in connection with the robbery.

The money was loaded on to the truck in cages, which police later recovered on a neighbouring farmer's land.

The cages from Securitas
These cages, which had contained the money, were later abandoned

There were seven robbers - two of them remain at large - and Ermir Hysenaj, the "inside man" - but with such a vast amount of cash it would have been impossible to quickly divide it into eight equal shares.

Two sizeable caches were recovered within days.

More than £9m was found in a container on an industrial estate in Welling, south-east London. That money is believed to have been stashed there by Roger Coutts.

Another hoard - about £8m - was found in a lock-up close to Lea Rusha's home in Southborough, Kent.

Smaller sums were found elsewhere, but £32m has vanished.

The Securitas money is believed to have been a mixture of new and used notes, and Mr McCunn said the used notes would be easier to dispose of because their serial numbers would not have been recorded.

You won't find many banks or accountants willing to accept £50,000 without knowing where it comes from
Bob McCunn

Mr McCunn said banking and accountancy regulations had been tightened considerably in the past 20 years, and the robbers would have found it impossible to launder large sums of cash in Britain.

Under the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act, estate agents, solicitors, accountants, bankers and even casinos face prosecution if they knowingly - or negligently - allow crime proceeds to be laundered.

This can carry a jail term of up to five years and a heavy fine.

So the robbers almost certainly looked abroad.

The trial heard considerable discussion about money being laundered in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus.

Northern Cyprus has no formal extradition treaty with Britain and is not covered by European Union rules on money laundering.

The court heard suggestions that a man called Sean Lupton, who jumped bail in December 2006, may have been involved in laundering the money.

Coutts, in his defence, sought to point the finger at two brothers, who he said were now in northern Cyprus.

His defence counsel, Graham Blower, said Hussein and Mustafa Basar - who were both of Turkish Cypriot origin - had left the UK shortly after the robbery.

He said Hussein had worked for Lee Murray, the robbery's alleged mastermind, who is known to have bought a house in Cyprus.

Murray also bought a villa in Rabat, Morocco, after fleeing there shortly after the robbery.

Mr McCunn said: "They might have bought property as an investment or they might just have bought property and then sold it again to launder the money through the banking system."

Nick Kochan, author of a book on laundering called The Washing Machine, said wherever the robbers laundered the money, they would have to accept making a huge loss on the £32m to turn it into "clean money".

"You may lose around 20% as the price of getting it cleaned. Another drawback is that there is an intrinsic lack of trust with dodgy money in the underworld so you find people ripping you off," he said.

Det Ch Insp Mick Judge has vowed to find the Securitas money: "Right at the start of the inquiry we made it clear that finding the money was one of the priorities for us - and that has not changed."

His team has frozen assets in Morocco and he said their inquiries would continue, although it might end up becoming a civil matter for the insurers of Loomis, as Securitas are now known.

Chris.Summers-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk

WHERE THE MONEY WENT
Map of Kent showing locations in Securitas case
22 Feb 06 - The robbers got away with £52,996,760 from the Securitas depot in Tonbridge, and left behind a further £153,833,020 because there was no room in their lorry
24 Feb 06 - Two suitcases and a holdall, containing £1,370,500, were found in a van at Ashford International Hotel in Ashford, Kent
28 Feb 06 - Police found £105,600 in an orchard on a farm in Staplehurst, Kent
2 Mar 06 - Twelve holdalls containing £9,655,040 found in a container at ENR Cars in Welling, south-east London, which had been rented by Roger Coutts
5 Mar 06 - Detectives found another £8,601,990 in a lock-up in Southborough, Kent, and £1,350 was used to pay Keith Borer for painting a van. Mr Borer, who lived in Yalding, had no idea it came from the robbery
Later in 2006 - A further £1m was found in the boot of a car, but more details cannot be disclosed for legal reasons



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