A businessman who helped launder a fortune of £1m (€1.4m) conned from an airline boss today walked free from court.
Car storage boss Allan Cowen moved the money through a London bank for an international con artist. The cash was then spent on luxury goods such as gold ingot, jet skis, works of art, and a classic car.
Cowen was found guilty of money laundering earlier this month. The court heard he came under the influence of TV producer and convicted murderer Jean La Cote.
La Cote conned the money from Noel Hanley, boss of Euroceltic airlines in Waterford, Ireland, and even convinced Mr Hanley’s brother to help him clean the money.
The Ivorian, who is in jail in South Africa, moved the money through Mr Cowen’s Coutts bank account before splashing it on expensive goods.
He bought nearly £100,000 (€143,866) of gold, works of art worth £13,000 (€18,702), jet skis costing £24,000 (€34,531) and a £300,000 (€431,641) limited edition Ferrari F50.
He was responsible for a string of frauds around the world, and owned expensive property in Cape Town and Johannesburg, the court heard.
Richard Horwell QC told the court Cowen, 67, was honest before he met La Cote.
He said the father-of-two from Lyndale Avenue, Pricklewood, north-west London, was not motivated by greed and did not profit from moving the money.
He said master fraudster La Cote had “an extraordinary ability to persuade honest men to carry out acts which otherwise they would not have performed.
“He is an extremely dangerous and highly professional criminal who has destroyed the latter years of Mr Cowen’s otherwise distinguished life.
“Not that La Cote will care about this – to him human beings are expendable”.
He told the court Mr Cowen’s life was at risk from revenge by La Cote.
Judge Peter Testar sentenced Cowen to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years. He was also fined £200,000 (€287,761) and ordered to pay £30,000 (€43,163) in costs.
He said: “Mr Cowen acted in the way he did as a result of the effect of Mr La Cote’s powerful personality and it seems to me that is the exceptional factor in this case.”
But he said Cowen had lied to the bank when challenged over the money and must have known it was stolen.
“It seems to me if there were no launderers there would be no fraudsters. The likes of Mr La Cote relied on people like you to launder his money... the fraud was discovered only when a bullion company employee raised the alarm.”