In August of 2016, DeepDotWeb reported the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the European Parliament member Nigel Farage’s aide’s arrest in the midst of boarding a flight to Britain. During that time, former UKIP aide George Cottrell was charged with 21 offences, including money laundering and blackmail.
This week, Cottrell plead guilty to wire fraud, settling an agreement with the prosecutors. The man in the 20s admitted to most of the claims presented by the prosecutors, including various offers which he submitted to darknet drug traffickers and dealers.
One of the major deals Cottrell offered to darknet traders was a money laundering service, with which he guaranteed to launder up to US$150,000 a month through both domestic and overseas bank accounts. Cottrell convinced illicit drug traders of this method, claiming that the usage of several payment channels can guarantee full anonymity.
However, Cottrell stated in a trial that the entire process was a fraud and an attempt to extract money out of traders on the darknet marketplace. Cottrell, who used the alias “Bill” in the dark web attempted to steal or retain the funds sent from the traders instead of laundering them and sending the payments to an agreed upon account.
“I explained various ways criminal proceeds could be laundered – for example, methods to transfer large amounts of cash out of the United States without triggering reporting requirements and ways to disguise the proceeds as legitimate business income for tax purposes. I falsely claimed that I would launder the criminal proceeds through my bank accounts for a fee. Rather than launder any of the money, though, Banker and I intended to retain the money.”
His confession allowed the prosecutors and the court to drop 20 of the 21 charges and officially charged Cottrell with one offence of wire fraud.
The C grade felony Cottrell is facing can earn him up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. While the final consequence has not been disclosed to the public yet, it is likely that Cottrell will face full 20 years in jail.
Cottrell is currently awaiting his final trial in March, in which he will be sentenced for one charge of wire fraud. A judge denied to bail him out in consideration of serious gambling problem and his “irrational” risk taking and decision making.
The coverage of Cottrell’s trial attracted extensive mainstream media interests, as he is estimated to be worth over $306 million due to a family trust fund founded by his mother Fiona Cottrell. Criticisms and curiosity of the general population arose when they found out that Cottrell’s origin dates back to a prestigious family linked to Prince Charles in 1970s.
In response to Cottrell’s admittance to guilt, Farage firmly solidified his stance on the matter, stating that he does not feel guilty of Cottrell’s sentencing. He also said that he cannot be responsible for the actions of every individual around him.
“He’s not an employee, he was a volunteer. He was unpaid. He was helping me do stuff. He’d been part of our party for a couple of years. We never had any suspicions about him at all. He faced 21 charges in America, 20 have been dropped. He’s pleaded guilty to a C grade felony. Listen, I can’t be responsible for what everyone around me does.”