Money launderers linked to cockle picking tragedy

Bo Li.
Bo Li.

Two fraudsters who made more than £1 million laundering cash linked to a human trafficking operation which caused the deaths of 21 cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay have been sent back to prison.

Police discovered sisters Bo and Yan Li, who worked out of addresses in Shirley, Solihull, and Dudley, had hidden their ill-gotten cash after being sentenced to prison in 2009.

The Chinese nationals were arrested in Bath just three weeks after they were released in 2011 when they were caught trying to pass-off £20 notes that, unbeknownst to them, had been withdrawn from circulation while they were in prison.

At a confiscation hearing at Birmingham Crown Court in 2011 it was established that Bo and Yan, aged 46 and 43 respectively, had both benefited from their criminal activity linked to the 2004 tragedy by £1.07 million.

Bo and Yan Li, Yan Li’s boyfriend, Philip Freeman, 64 and Bo Li’s boyfriend, John Bowkett, 65, were all charged with money laundering and convicted by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court on September 20.

The Li sisters were jailed for two years on Friday, Freeman received a four month jail term suspended for 12 months while Bowkett was handed a six month community work order and issued a four month curfew which bans him from leaving his home between 8pm at night and 6am in the morning.

Both Freeman and Bowkett were ordered by the judge to each pay £10,000 costs. Detective Sergeant Derek Tinsley, from the West Midlands Regional Asset Recovery Team (WMRART), said: “We will probably never know where the money was hidden for the last few years but we are convinced it was kept from the original people trafficking operation and other related crime.

“I hope this serves as a reminder to those who seek to profit from the misery of others that we will pursue them relentlessly, regardless of the passage of time and we will always take action to put ill-gotten cash back into the public purse.”