Stirling student jailed for laundering £85,000 for crime lord

A student who laundered nearly £85,000 for a Glasgow-based Chinese criminal lord was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Xiaotong Huang, 28, took the funds from a man named Wai Ma - also known as "Mr. Big" - for approximately two years to pay her student fees and purchase luxurious items. Ma traveled throughout Scotland in a Mercedes distributing cleaning funds to associates.

In March, Huang was judged guilty of money laundering linked to serious organized crime despite his denial of the charge. Four of her bank accounts were utilized to launder a total of £160,000. Nevertheless, she was found guilty of laundering £84,912 in total.

The court heard that an analysis of Huang's accounts revealed she had deposited more than £160,400 with Santander, Monzo, and Starling banks between June 2019 and April 2021. In cash, approximately £56,000 was deposited. She was pursuing a master's degree in publishing at the University of Stirling at the time.

More than £32,000 was transferred overseas, while £31,000 is used to pay for university tuition and lodging. Over £37,000 had been spent on luxury items from designers and retailers such as Gucci, Harrods, and Louis Vuitton. Tens of thousands of pounds were sent to China, along with £7,000 worth of costly wine purchased on a single day.

Huang claimed she received the money from her deceased Chinese fiancé who was residing in Germany at the time.

She claimed to receive funds from her parents as well as from her fellow Chinese students at the University of Stirling. She claimed that they had since then returned to China, however, neither of them had traveled from China to the United Kingdom to substantiate her claims. The court was informed that Ma had fled. He was described as the "main nominal" in an Operation Skipper-codenamed police investigation into a "significant" money laundering operation.

In April 2021, police watched as Huang entered his Mercedes in a parking lot near her residence halls. She emerged with a brown paper bag, which she took to the nearest Post Office's travel money section. She later claimed the bag contained only Chinese dumplings, but she was observed depositing £3,500 into one of her accounts after removing a wad of currencies "an inch and a half thick" from the bag.

A fortnight later, police surrounded Ma's car in Dundee. He was in the driver's seat with three passengers and nearly £50,000 in currency hidden in the trunk and rear footwell.

In May 2021, Huang was detained in her residence hall. The stolen opulent items were never recovered. The defense attorney, Calum Weir, stated that Huang was "naive and to some degree exploited."

He requested that she be given a sentence without incarceration so that she could return to her parents in Beijing, who were described as having "more than adequate means." However, Sheriff Keith O'Mahony stated that he was not persuaded that there was an alternative disposition to custody, stating, "I do accept that she's not at the top of the tree."