I have written a couple of times before (here and here) about the ascendency of women in the world of criminality in general and money laundering in particular. And it seems that this is no short-term trend – it’s a continuing development. When Greater Manchester Police issued this press release just before Christmas, one thing caught my eye immediately: three of the mugshots are of women. Moreover, two of them – sisters Abia and Shazia Din – were the ringleaders and netted the longest sentences for their troubles. When one of their henchmen was sent to prison, his place in the gang was swiftly taken – not by a son or brother but by his daughter, Natalie Wrafter. Actually, this is how Shazia and Abia themselves came to be in charge: one brother was arrested and another went on the run, and they picked up the reins of the family business.
I’m not one to perpetuate gender stereotypes, but some of the details of the case are rather feminine. Shazia seemed to be in charge of the money, and her main front business for the laundering was the Beauty Booth – a legitimate company selling mascara, lipstick and body lotion via Amazon. And when surveillance officers filmed Shazia and Natalie in the car park of the prison in Doncaster, exchanging thousands of pounds in cash, Shazia had a toddler in her arms – the toddler ran off and Natalie chased it while Shazia stowed the cash in the boot of her car. This very ordinariness may be part of the secret of the success of female criminals – indeed, the Din gang favoured using female drug couriers because they are less likely to be stopped and searched by police.
Another recent example of a female-led crime syndicate is that of Ruja Ignatova – aka “The Missing Cryptoqueen”. There has been an excellent podcast telling her story, so I won’t even attempt it, but I do think it’s interesting that (a) she gave herself the nickname Cryptoqueen (in other words, she chose to stress her gender) and (b) many of her female victims (in essence, she was running a Ponzi scheme, enticing people to invest and then bring in other investors for a commission) trusted and admired her precisely because she was a woman. As Jen McAdams told the BBC, she was persuaded by seeing that Ignatova had spoken at a prestigious conference: “That ticked a box… The power of the woman – well done! I felt proud of her.” Male criminals may have to look to their laurels; if these stories are anything to go by, their dominance of the modern criminal world (where brains are now more lucrative than brawn) may be coming to an end.