Investigators have carried out a series of raids on a gang suspected of smuggling £15.5 million of dirty money out of the UK in suitcases.

Ten people were arrested during the operation led by the National Crime Agency (NCA) on Wednesday, including a 41-year-old man thought to be the ringleader who was held in Hayes, west London.

Officials claim there was a "well-orchestrated conspiracy" to move money made through drugs and people smuggling out of the UK to Dubai.

The NCA said the group had moved £15.5 million over the past three years, and also claims they tried to smuggle 17 migrants into Britain this summer.

In dawn raids on Wednesday, five Indian nationals, one French and four British - all aged between 28 and 44 - were arrested.

Asian Image:

Money recovered following early morning raids by officers from the NCA from seven home addresses in Hounslow, Hayes, Uxbridge and Southall.

Asian Image:

A BMW 5 series is brought in on a lorry after being recovered by officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Metropolitan Police during early morning raids from seven home addresses in Hounslow, Hayes, Uxbridge and Southall, of suspected members of an organised crime group (OCG).

They were held on suspicion of money laundering and facilitating illegal immigration.

Cash, drugs and a number of cars including Range Rovers, Audis and BMWs were seized during the raids in Hounslow, Hayes, Uxbridge and Southall.

The operation followed an investigation into cash seizures of more than £1.5 million made by Border Force officials during 2019.

Chris Hill, NCA senior investigating officer, said: "Cash is the lifeblood of organised crime groups and they need the services of money launderers.

"We believe that the action we and our partners have taken will have caused permanent damage to a well-established money laundering network.

"We are determined to do all we can to target illicit financial flows and hit organised criminal networks where it hurts - in the pocket."

By Margaret Davis