Year of Call: 2000
Inn of Court: Middle Temple
‘A popular choice for challenging drug and gang cases’; ‘She defends and prosecutes money laundering, VAT fraud and advance fee fraud cases’ – Crime and Fraud – Leading Juniors (Legal 500 – 2017)
Described as committed, attentive, thorough and hard working, she is a leading junior specialising in Crime, Professional Discipline and Fraud & Commercial Crime. Regularly involved in large and complex cases she has been instructed by the likes of the Specialist Fraud Division (CPS) and the Complex Casework Unit (CPS) for the last ten years as well as by Hogan Brown Solicitors (Liverpool) for her Professional Discipline practice.
She is regularly involved in high profile cases and including cases instructed by the National Crime Agency (NCA) (and its predecessor the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)) involving large drugs and money laundering conspiracies, again more often than not those with an international dimension.
Significant Criminal Cases
- R v. Bader Nokas & Others [January 2017] – Instructed in this high profile case where the prosecution alleged that four ‘boy racers’ were driving dangerously late at night on the North Circular. They were driving cars that had been modified to increase their speed. As a result of the dangerous driving, a fatal collision between one of the cars and an oncoming lorry occurred and the three occupants died instantly from horrific injuries. Three years later, following a lengthy investigation and a Coroners’ Inquest the drivers of the other three vehicles were charged. The defendants pleaded guilty to death by careless driving and were sentenced accordingly.
- R v. Raymond Paul Koroma & 3 Others [July 2017] – Mr Koroma was charged together with three men with conspiracy to supply a large amount of drugs. The four men were found in possession of 11 kilograms of cannabis and a Scorpion machine gun at a house in South London. Expert evidence was called in relation to firearms and slang terminology. The case was unique in that Mr Koroma suffered from Aspergers’ syndrome and was assisted by an intermediary. Gang membership/rap music were issues in the case. Mr Koroma had been charged and acquitted of a similar offence a year earlier. He was acquitted in this case.
- R v. Sufiyan Mahmood & Others [January 2017] – Sufiyan Mahmood played a leading role in a gang who conspired to burgle and steal high-value cars over the period of a-year-and-a-half. The value of the loss was estimated to be £1.8 million. The evidence comprised of cell-site; ANPR; fingerprint and communication evidence. The scale of the operation was massive: on some nights the defendant was responsible for the commission of three burglaries. The methods employed by the defendants to burgle particular premises were unusual and sophisticated. The defendant was also charged with contempt of court having assaulted a co-defendant in the dock during the course of the proceedings.
- R v. Ian Knight & Others [January 2017] – Acted for the defence in this unusual kidnapping case. Thirteen defendants charged with kidnap and the administration of a noxious substance. They are alleged to have kidnapped (and sedated) the complainant and held him at a series of strongholds pending payment of a ransom demand. The case is complicated by the refusal of the complainant to testify in the UK; he is wanted for tax evasion in Germany and is currently residing in the Ukraine to avoid extradition. The prosecution has successfully applied to call evidence by way of live-link in accordance with a number of Conventions.
- R v. Aaron Abbott [November 2016] – Mr Abbott was charged with a series of sexual assaults on a co-worker – the two tended the bar at a Public House. Unusually the alleged offending was captured on CCTV. The issue in the case concerned the capacity of the complainant to consent given her level of voluntary intoxication. The trial took place before HHJ Rook QC (cf. Rook on Sexual Offences) and issues such as capacity and specimen counts were litigated in detail. The defendant was ultimately acquitted of all but a minor count and received a suspended sentence.
Significant Fraud Cases
- R v. Dragomir & Others  – Six defendants charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. False Internet adverts were placed on established websites (Ebay, Air BnB etc.) inviting members of the public to purchase goods and services. Deposits were paid to secure the goods and/or services and the funds transferred to bank accounts. These accounts had been opened using fraudulent ID documents. £1.4 million was obtained over the period of the fraud, about a year. Mr Dragomir was responsible for making the fraudulent ID and was arrested in the office he used to produce the documents – described by the prosecution as a sophisticated and professional set-up.
- R v. Mariam Mbula [July 2017] – Leila represented the defendant in a series of complex confidence frauds. Described by the judge as ‘the worst frauds of the kind’ that he had seen. An experienced confidence trickster, she didn’t distinguish between victims – defrauding a young woman of her life savings on the promise of securing bail for her mother from a Spanish prison. The case attracted considerable media attention because the daughter had been left to care for her sister, suffering from Down’s Syndrome. Miss Mbula appeared on ITV’s This Morning talking about how giving birth in prison had inspired her to turn her life around.
- R v. Valentina Kezeliene & Others [January 2017] – Miss Kezeliene was charged together with her daughter and known associates with conspiring to organize ‘sham’ marriages and laundering the proceeds of the crime through numerous accounts at different banking institutions opened in her name. The prosecution relied on the movement of funds through various accounts associated with the defendant to show that she had knowledge of, and was involved in, the conspiracy. She claimed not to have knowledge of the accounts – her daughter having used her name to open them. Over £200,000 was laundered through the various accounts. The conspiracy netted about £400,000 over a two-year period.
- R v. Faheem Ahmadzai [November 2016] – One of eight defendants charged with fraudulent evasion of duty and money laundering. The case concerned the seizure of 3.7 million cigarettes on which £1 million of duty hadn’t been paid. The investigation encompassed the transport; storage and onward distribution of the contraband. It involved complex financial aspects concerning the origin of large sums of cash seized in the course of the investigation. The prosecution alleged it was raised by the sale and purchase of the contraband, however in defending the allegations it was submitted that the legitimate source of the funds could be supported by banking and company documents.
- R v. Virbalas & Others [April 2017] – Mr Virbalas was charged together with five co-defendants with offences of fraudulent evasion of duty (of over £100,000) on a large number of cigarettes that had been smuggled into the UK by car. They were also charged with linked money laundering offences. The prosecution relied on CCTV; money found at various addresses and detailed notes of orders and calculations. The case focused on sums of money found with certain defendants at certain times that corresponded with communications between the defendants. Emphasis was placed on the movement of funds between co-conspirators and profit made curing the course of the six-month conspiracy.
- LL.B (Hons), Durham University
- Member of the Management Board at Charter Chambers
- Criminal Bar Association
- South Eastern Circuit
- Public Access Bar Association
Areas of Specialism
She is instructed in large and complex criminal cases, wide ranging drug conspiracies and associated firearm and money laundering offences.
She is also often instructed in cases with mental health elements. R v. Koroma (2017) and R v. Karimi (2017) are both cases concerning these issues, the former concerning a young defendant suffering from Aspergers Syndrome and the latter a defendant suffering serious and significant harm from torture and abuse during the Revolution in Iran.
She is instructed in police discipline matters for the past ten years. Recent cases have included cases concerning multiple allegations of corruption and misconduct.
Fraud & Commercial Crime
She is instructed in a number of different areas of fraud: immigration fraud, identity fraud, tax evasion, cheating the public revenue etc.
She is regularly involved in large and complex cases involving a large volume of documents and electronic material. Recent cases include:
- R. v Kezeliene  – A large scale enterprise organising sham marriages
- R. v D  – A multimillion pound international fraud concerning the use of fraudulent bank accounts to transfer sums obtained from doctored websites
- R. v Virbalas  – The importation and duty evasion of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of cigarettes.
Recent cases reported in the press include:
- R. v Nokas – ‘Three men jailed after ‘cat and mouse’ car chase deaths‘ (BBC)
- R. v Kezeliene – ‘Mother and daughter team who flew in Lithuanian bogus brides to marry Indian and Pakistani men in £335,000 EU sham marriage scam are jailed‘ (Daily Mail)
- R. v Koroma – ‘Jordan Oxley and Dajour Shakeem Da Costa jailed after machine gun and £125,000 worth of cannabis found outside a South Norwood home‘ (Croydon Guardian)
- R v. Mariam Mbula – ‘Con artist who tricked her way into the hearts of the rich and famous‘ (The Telegraph)
- R v. Mariam Mbula – ‘Jailed when I was eight months pregnant‘ (ITV)
- R v. Mariam Mbula – ‘Mother who charmed the nation with inspirational story of how she turned her life around after giving birth in jail is a serial con artist who stole £15,000 from family of Down’s woman‘ (Daily Mail)
- R v. Mariam Mbula – ‘‘Inspirational mum’ Mariam Mola who gave heartbreaking story on ITV’s Lorraine programme revealed as serial con artist‘ (The Sun)
- R v. Valentina Kezeliene & Others – ‘All-female gang accused of flying brides to the UK from Lithuania in £315,000 sham marriage visa plot‘ (The Telegraph)
- R v. Valentina Kezeliene & Others – ‘Mother and daughter behind £335,000 sham marriage scam jailed‘ (The Metro)
- R v. Valentina Kezeliene & Others – ‘Sham marriage gang sentenced‘ (CPS)
- R v. Sufiyan Mahmood & Others – ‘Brazen ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ gang stole cars worth nearly £3 million‘ (ITV)
- R v. Sufiyan Mahmood & Others – ‘Thieves from Leytonstone and Walthamstow part of ‘prolific’ gang that stole nearly £3m worth of cars‘ (East London Guardian)
She gives a talk at Lambeth Academy on an annual basis – encouraging students to consider a career in criminal law as well as supervising pupils from Lambeth Academy on a week of work experience in court.