Caught with their pants down: three people sentenced for selling counterfeit underwear and money laundering
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Three people who made £394,241 by selling counterfeit designer briefs, boxers and t-shirts online and then laundered the proceeds have been sentenced.
Pathum Percy Ponweera Arachchige Don, 36, of Talwin Street, Tower Hamlets, was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and must also complete 150 hours of unpaid work.
Bashir Elsawahli, 44, of Fleetwood, Letchworth Garden City, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and must complete a 10 day rehabilitation activity requirement.
Guncha Elsawahli, 45, of Fleetwood, Letchworth Garden City, was handed a 12 month community order and must complete 75 hours of unpaid work.
Don was found guilty on 27 September 2023 following a trial at Southwark Crown Court of the unauthorised use of a trademark. At the same trial, Bashir Elsawahli and Guncha Elsawahli pleaded guilty to the unauthorised use of a trademark and transferring criminal property. All three were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 10 November 2023.
Detective Constable Geoff Holbrook, from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police, said:
“Despite being aware that selling fake goods to the public is against the law, Pathum Don, Bashir Elsawahli and Guncha Elsawahli continued to operate an illegal business. They went to great lengths to try and disguise the source of their income by transferring sums of cash through various bank accounts.
“When their activity was discovered by police, the group didn’t admit what they had done. Unfortunately for them, we had a large amount of evidence that showed they had earned hundreds of thousands of pounds from an illegal activity.
“We ask the public to think twice before buying counterfeit goods. Whatever savings that customers pocket when buying a counterfeit item are often offset by its poor quality and the risks that come from using a product that has been manufactured illegally.”
On 28 March 2017, a legitimate brand issued a cease and desist notice to a seller account on eBay named FANCY_INDEX, which sold counterfeit luxury underwear. The brand received an email from a man named ‘John S’, who claimed that he lived in India and sold the underwear online to supplement his income, but did not know that it was counterfeit.
The counterfeit underwear was removed from sale and, a few days later, the name of the eBay account was changed to TRUE.STYLES. The legitimate brand identified that the account had resumed selling counterfeit underwear in July.
The case was referred to PIPCU on 12 September 2017. Officers from the unit found that, from October 2015 to August 2017, 18,567 pieces of counterfeit underwear were sold from the eBay account for a total of £249,327, and 8,107 counterfeit t-shirts were sold for a total of £144,914.
From 6 December 2015 to 3 December 2017, the seller made 95 payments, which totalled £377,248, into two bank accounts. One of the accounts was owned by Bashir Elsawahli and the other owned by Guncha Elsawahli.
Under the bank account owned by Bashir Elsawahli, four payments that totalled £13,862 were transferred to ‘Disni Don’, and 13 payments worth a total of £37,756 were sent to ‘Pathum Don’. A further £29,266 was transferred to other accounts linked to Bashir Elsawahli and Guncha Elsawahli.
Approximately £172,952 was transferred from the account owned by Guncha Elsawahli to a second account under her name. Officers identified that 19 payments, worth a total of £77,080, were made to ‘Pathum Don’ from the second account.
PIPCU officers executed two search warrants in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, on 19 December 2017 and arrested Bashir Elsawahli. They seized 2,383 counterfeit garments and Bashir Elsawahli’s mobile phone and laptop, which further linked him to Don.
During his police interviews, Bashir Elsawahli stated that he believed that all of the counterfeit clothing seized by PIPCU officers was genuine. He said that Don ran the eBay account, and controlled the bank accounts and payments associated with it. Don answered “no comment” to all questions asked during his police interview. Guncha Elsawahli stated that she was unemployed, and answered “no comment” to all questions asked.