Joe Calzaghe's ex-girlfriend cleared of smuggling £104m in suitcase

Joe Calzaghe’s glamour model ex-girlfriend is spared jail and walks free from court despite moving suitcases of dirty money from the UK to Dubai in £104m smuggling ring

  • Jo-Emma Larvin, 44, spent six years with Calzaghe before they split in 2009

Joe Calzaghe’s glamour model ex-girlfriend walked free from court after she smuggled suitcases crammed with cash from the UK to Dubai in a £104m crime ring.

Jo-Emma Larvin, 44, who dated the Welsh boxer for six years, hid dirty money in luggage before flying it out from Heathrow to the Middle East.

Larvin made the first trip with Amy Harrison, 28, when they took £2.2m into Dubai in seven suitcases.

Her partner Jonathan Johnson, 55, travelled with her in September 2020 as they carried £2.8m using ordinary holiday items to disguise the cash stashed in eight suitcases.

Larvin’s six year relationship with former Welsh boxing legend Calzaghe ended in 2009.

Jo-Emma Larvin, 44, hid dirty money in luggage before flying it out from Heathrow to the Middle East

A look at the money which was smuggled by Calzaghe’s model ex-girlfriend

The 44-year-old now describes herself as a safari specialist, wildlife photographer, travel consultant, social media digital marketing specialist and interior designer.

Larvin denied any wrongdoing and claimed she believed she was flying out millions of pounds for the UAE Embassy.

The model said when she and her partner took the job it was the ‘worst decision’ of their lives.

Larvin and Johnson, both from Ripon, North Yorkshire denied the charges but were unanimously convicted of removing criminal property from the UK by a jury at Isleworth Crown Court in April.

Larvin was sentenced to two years jail, suspended for two years, while Johnson received a 12 month sentence suspended for two years.

Harrison was also sentenced to two years jail, suspended for two years.

But Beatrice Auty, 26, from Fulham, who was also accused of smuggling cash, was jailed for three and a half years because she had a more serious role stashing the money into suitcases and accompanying couriers to Heathrow.

Nicola Esson, 56, from Leeds, earlier admitted the offence and was sentenced to 22 months suspended for 24 months.

Muhammad Ilyas, 30, from Slough, also admitted removing criminal property and was sentenced to 15 months suspended for 24 months.

Harrison and Auty both wept and embraced in the dock as they were sentenced.

Larvin, Johnson, Harrison and Ilyas, were also sentenced to carry out a significant number of hours of unpaid work and will all be electronically monitored curfew for the next 6 months.

Larvin pictured with her partner Jonathan Johnson, 55, who was also accused of smuggling money

The model said when she and her partner took the job it was the ‘worst decision’ of their lives

The former glamour model pictured 

Judge Sarah Paneth told them: ‘What you did was critical to the scheme. What you all did was not merely act as couriers, you were not just facilitating the cleaning of this dirty money, you were key to bleaching it.

‘Once you reached Dubai and performed your role in clearing it through Customs it [the money] was instantly gleaming white.’

Addressing Larvin, Jude Paneth said: ‘My own assessment of you, observing you give evidence and throughout the trial is someone who has many positive qualities.

‘You are indeed a very kind and caring person, and this offending is completely out of character I have no doubt you feel the burden of Mr Johnson’s involvement but you did not recruit him, he was, in my judgment, keen to be involved in an opportunity you had come across by chance.’

Larvin must perform 200 hours of unpaid work; Johnson 100 hours; Ilyas 100 hours; Esson 100 hours and Harrison 200 hours.

Julian Christopher KC, prosecuting, earlier said: ‘These six defendants all acted as couriers for Abdulla Alfalasi, providing money laundering services for unknown criminal organisations in this country arranging for the removal of cash from Heathrow to Dubai.

‘It is the Crown’s case that all six of these defendants played a significant where the offending was part of a group activity.’

Millions of pounds in English and Scottish banknotes were carried in suitcases checked in as luggage, the court heard.

Anything over 10,000 Euros leaving the EU has to be declared to HMRC, but the smugglers’ suitcases usually contained up to £500,000.

The couriers were paid £3,000 and all their expenses for their trips to Dubai before flying back with ‘their very considerably lighter’ suitcases.

They flew business class so they could take more luggage with them and declared cash once arriving in Dubai, handing over a letter authorising them to carry it from a company called Omnivest.

During her first trip Larvin sent messages to Johnson, saying she was ‘in at the deep end’.

Johnson told her: ‘You need to be super careful,’ and: ‘I like your enterprise but the threat of clink.’

Mr Christopher said: ‘That’s the threat of prison – he’s worried about the illegal nature of this.’



Johnson also messaged Larvin two days before his first trip to Dubai, and said taking eight suitcases with them was ‘taking the p**s’.

Recruitment conulstant Tara Hanlon, 32, described as a Kim Kardashian lookalike, was locked up for nearly three years in 2022 for money laundering offences.

Money laundering expert and technical adviser from HM Treasury, Lesley Hayton said coffee and air freshener had been secreted in the suitcases to put sniffer dogs off the scent of cash.

Ms Hayton said: ‘There is a belief that when moving large sums of cash…there is a belief that coffee will put a sniffer dog away from finding the cash.’

‘I believe they were travelling with Emirates Airlines, business class has the luxury of a later check in, so that makes the chances of getting caught that much smaller than if you were waiting in an airports for two to three hours.

‘There is also a higher baggage allowance on business class.’

Johnson told Larvin that their contacts were ‘taking the p***’, adding: ‘How the f*** do two people carry eight cases it’s f*****g ridiculous, talk about conspicuous.’

The couple were arrested in March last year.

Auty told the court she was put in contact by Clarke by her ex-partner and told she would be working for UAE royal family.

She said met a driver called Karim at a Starbucks in Knightsbridge who took her to a town house and gave her suitcases to take to Dubai and told her: ‘Have a lovely trip.’

Auty said she did not believe she was doing anything illegal.

Howard Godfrey, defending Larvin and Johnson, earlier told the court: ‘Neither Ms Larvin nor Mr Johnson occupied a significant role in the group activity.’

‘Neither was aware of the wider operation, there is no evidence for that. Little trust was placed in them as they were lied to and kept under surveillance, even in terms of transport to the airport. They had no influence on people above them.’

Ahmed Muen, defending Auty, earlier said jail was a harrowing prosepect for her.

‘It is truly heartbreaking, She had aspirations to be a lawyer, to help people. She has engaged in volunteer work trying to assist others in difficult situations. She is of positive good character. She wanted to be a call-handler for the Samaritan.’

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