AN OSWESTRY businesswoman has been found guilty of helping launder more than £800,000 cash from drugs production, including a cannabis farm set up at an industrial unit in Mold.

Maxine Knott, who was told by Judge Niclas Parry to prepare for prison, passed money through her business, Oswestry-based Gorgeous Hair and Beauty Salon, which was generated from the proceeds of her partner Simon King’s illicit activities.

King and his business associate Lee Alexander have previously admitted conspiring to produce and supply cannabis from a farm at the Bromfield Industrial Estate in Mold. The unit was raided by police in January last year when hundreds of cannabis plants with a street value of £400,000 were unearthed.

The duo also admitted money laundering, but Knott denied the same charge, claiming that she did not suspect where the cash was coming from and believed King’s business, Halcyon Furniture, was thriving through the proceeds of “high-end” furniture sales such that he could give her struggling business a helping hand.

Anna Price, prosecuting, questioned whether Knott should not have suspected King’s wrongdoings as she knew about his previous fraud conviction and must have wondered about the “lavish” lifestyle the couple were able to enjoy at their home in Abbotsmoor Farm in West Felton.

“If you have got two Mercedes, a Range Rover and a Bentley on the driveway of a sizeable rented property you are living a lavish lifestyle,” said Ms Price. “And not one you would expect to be living with a man who started his business in 2013.”

Knott said she had taken out an IVA in 2011 as an alternative to bankruptcy. Her salon struggled intermittently and she said: “It didn’t seem out of the ordinary for him [King] to give me cash.”

But the prosecuting barrister questioned whether large amounts of cash going into Knott’s bank account to cover direct debits would not normally have been paid by bank transfers or a standing order.

“He [King] gave her cash to cover the direct debits. When she was arrested she was carrying around £700 in cash having been to the bank that day. This was a lady who was living on cash,” said Ms Price.

Defence barrister Saleema Mahmood pointed out that over a six-year period the transactions through Knott’s personal and business account for her legitimate business amounted to less than £30,000 a year. In three of those years she was paying herself less than the National Minimum Wage, noted the barrister.

Knott, 50, of Llansilin, near Oswestry denied converting criminal property, namely £806,586.13 cash, knowing or suspecting it was wholly or partly the proceeds of criminal conduct between December 31, 2011 and March 9, 2017,but was convicted by a jury.

King, 46, also of Llansilin, and Alexander, 34, formerly of Queen’s Road in Chester, have both admitted converting criminal property as well as conspiring to produce and supply cannabis between December 2011 and January of last year.

All three will be sentenced at Mold Crown Court. Judge Niclas Parry asked for a pre-sentence report and warned Knott: “I will give you bail until tomorrow and I do so you can put your affairs in order. You have been found to be a very important cog in a very big wheel and only a custodial sentence can follow this conviction.”