The money, the Met’s largest single cash seizure, was discovered when lockdown stopped it being taken out of the country.
It was found when undercover officers swooped on Ruslan Shamsutdinov, 36, as he struggled to put heavy bags into a car outside the luxury Porteus Apartments last June.
The holdalls contained cash linked to Sergejs Auzins, 46, a Russian middleman working for gun and drugs syndicates across London.
Officers raided the gated mews and recovered £5,082,000 that at least 10 gangs had been unable to clean due to lockdown restrictions, Harrow crown court heard.
Detective Superintendent Jason Prins said his team accidentally stumbled across the Fulham flat during a long-running operation into firearms and Class A drugs supply.
He said: “This is the largest ever single cash seizure by the Met and I believe one of the largest ever nationally.
“In the flat, there was money everywhere you went — under the beds, in cupboards and on the floor. They couldn’t even hide it. It was a money laundering hub for a number of crime groups.”
A further €39,000 and £8,000 was discovered at Uzbekistan national Shamsutdinov’s home in Glenister Road, Hackney.
Five weeks later, detectives observed their accomplice, Serwan Ahmadi, 35, handing over a bag to a fourth suspect in north London.
Within hours, Met Specialist Crime officers arrested Ahmadi in Victoria Road, Edmonton, along with £59,980.
A search of the Iranian’s home in nearby Pycroft Way uncovered £198,600.
The following day, July 15, 2020, Auzins was detained at his house in Windward Road, Rochester, where another £14,435 was seized — bringing the total to nearly £5.4 million.
Det Supt Prins added: “Covid had really exacerbated their problem of how to get rid of money.”
On Friday, Shamsutdinov was jailed for three years and nine months, Auzins, three years and four months, and Ahmadi, received a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to conceal and disguise criminal property.
The seized cash will eventually fund Met and Home Office operations to tackle violent crime.
Astonishingly, Det Supt Prins said of the Fulham apartment believed to be worth £900,000: “We still haven’t established who actually owns it.
“Organised crime is motivated by money and is one of the biggest causes of violence on our streets. Tackling this violence is our main priority.”
Source: The Evening Standard