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Stamford Hill Orthodox Jewish charity finance boss laundered £10m through selling 'dangerous' fake Viagra and diet pills

PUBLISHED: 16:42 10 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:41 11 July 2019

Edward Cohen

Edward Cohen

met

A man who laundered nearly £10million from the sale of fake Viagra and diet pills through bank accounts linked to the Orthodox Jewish charity he ran has been jailed.

David CohenDavid Cohen

The Met launched an investigation five years ago after customers of online internet pharmacies offering erectile dysfunction pills and slimming aids to customers in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France reported that the medication was counterfeit.

The Met's specialist crime command, the London Regional Asset Recovery Team (RART) found a group of companies based in Stamford Hill with links to the Chabad UK charity were receiving card payments for the unlicensed products.

Edward Cohen operated the finances and was the administrator of the charity which was set up in 2007 to help the Jewish poor worldwide.

From March 2012, 14 bank accounts that had been opened in the names of charities and companies associated with Chabad UK were found to have received payments from the merchant accounts.

Edward CohenEdward Cohen

In the space of two-and-a-half years nine companies of the Chabad UK group - seven of which were registered charities - processed more than £10.3million, only a very small proportion of which were confirmed as legitimate charitable donations.

Some £165,000 was siphoned into Cohen's personal accounts, £8,601,299 was transferred to Foreign Exchange accounts, and £1,676,011 was transferred to several money service bureaus.

Cohen, 67, of Paget Road, Stoke Newington, was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years' imprisonment on Thursday for money laundering, theft and supplying false information to the Charity Commission, after being found guilty at Southwark Crown Court on June 21.

He was found not guilty of a second money laundering charge.

He was also sentenced to two years and three months' to run consecutively for benefit fraud, after being found guilty in April of claiming £233,000 in housing benefit, despite owning a house.

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Det Sgt John Nagle who led the investigation, said: "Edward Cohen set up a pan-European operation selling dangerous counterfeit medication to thousands of unsuspecting people, pocketing millions of pounds in the process.

"In an effort to conceal the profits from his business venture and with full knowledge that what he was doing was illegal, the money was funnelled through bank accounts set up by a legitimate charity that he ran.

"Cohen also transferred large sums from donations made to the charity in good faith into his own bank accounts, which paid for rent and other personal expenses."

He continued: "This was a hugely complex case, spanning several years and European borders with multiple suspects, which was meticulously unpicked by investigators.

"This conviction should send a message to anyone who thinks that they can run online businesses selling illegal products and launder the proceeds to throw law enforcement off the scent - there is always a money trail and we will follow it until we have enough to convince a jury of the true scale of offending."

Edward Cohen's son David Cohen, 38, of Ashbourne Avenue, Hampstead, was found not guilty of money laundering and supplying false information to the Charity Commission.

Two other charges of money laundering and theft were dismissed during the trial.

David Cohen was sentenced on Thursday to six months' imprisonment suspended for 18 months and ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work after being convicted of £15,000 fraud at an earlier trial.

Yesterday the Charity Commission announced a class statutory inquiry into a group of Stamford Hill charities alleged to be involved in the money laundering, which all had common trustees; Chabad UK, Havenpoint Worldwide Ltd, Mamosh Worldwide Ltd, Or Simcha, Ozer Dalim Ltd, Pikuach Nefesh Ltd and Worldwide Hatzala Ltd.

Amy Spiller, head of its investigations team, said: "This case has involved a dishonest abuse of charity and we welcome the sentence. Charities exist to do good and strengthen society, so abuse of position of this kind has no place in charity. It is right that the individual has been held to account for his actions through the conviction."

The Commission will report on its own findings and conclusions "in due course".

Chabad UK is in no way connected to Chabad Lubavitch UK, a charity which promotes Judaism.

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