UK fugitive convicted in £10 million Jewish charities laundering scam

Edward Cohen fled the country before trial that finds he evaded tax on proceeds from illegal sales of Viagra, diet pills

Illustrative photo of British banknotes during a news conference at the Bank of England in London, September 10, 2013. (Chris Ratcliffe/AP)
Illustrative photo of British banknotes (Chris Ratcliffe/AP)

An ultra-Orthodox man from London was convicted of using Jewish charities to launder money he made from illegal sales of medicines including Viagra, diet pills, and prescription medications.

Southwark Crown Court heard that Edward Cohen, 67, from Stamford Hill laundered some 10 million pounds ($12,700,000) through Jewish charities.

Cohen fled the country before the trial but was convicted in absentia of supplying false information to the Charity Commission and of becoming concerned in criminal property. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

His son David, 38, a teacher, was also convicted of providing false information for the purposes of obtaining benefits, but was cleared of money laundering charges and of supplying false information to the Charity Commission. He had denied the charges.

Father and son will be sentenced on July 4. David Cohen was granted bail.

According to a Daily Mail report, the elder Cohen hid the sums from tax authorities by providing false information and by deceiving the Charity Commission, the UK’s charities regulation and monitoring body.

Money from sales of the medications was sent to an international network of firms, currencies, and bank accounts in Cyprus, Hong Kong, Panama, China and the United States.

Prosecutor James Dawes said, “Effectively, what we are seeing here, you may think, is money laundering on a gigantic scale.”

One of the charities involved was Chabad UK, a group that is entirely separate from the Chabad Lubavitch UK organization and is not part of the official Chabad movement, the Jewish Chronicle newspaper reported.

Police investigators found that during the years 2012-2013 Chabad UK’s income increased more than five-fold over previous years, and that over 80 percent of that came from merchant accounts linked to the medication sales.

Police raided the Chabad UK premises in Stamford Hill, which is home to Europe’s largest ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, on September 1, 2014.

Documents seized showed links between the charity and drug sales to customers in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland, the JC said.

According to the Daily Mail report, Cohen also once tried to buy a knighthood by paying 4,800 pounds to Award Intelligence, a firm that specializes in obtaining honors for its clients.

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