POLICE stopped a motorist hogging the middle lane of the M6 south of Carlisle and found more than £150,000 of suspected criminal cash stashed in a shopping holdall and cool bag.

Over the course of three days last month, Cumbria Constabulary officers seeking to stamp out drug trafficking seized vast sums of money from motorists travelling through the county, and recovered drugs potentially worth almost £250,000.

When cash which is suspected to be linked to illegal activity is seized, financial investigators make applications to magistrates for the detention of that cash for period of several months in order that they can make further detailed enquiries.

They set out the circumstances of vehicle stoppages and outline intelligence which gives the force cause to believe that the money might be linked to crime.

The latest applications were made this week to magistrates — and granted — giving police staff time to probe the origin of the money.

A financial investigator told a Carlisle bench that a Mercedes E320 was stopped on the M6 southbound close to junction 40 at Penrith on April 15.

“It was travelling in the middle lane and did not move over despite there being no traffic in the other lanes,” said the investigator.

During a stop-check, the 35-year-old Essex-based driver said he was travelling home having visited friends in Glasgow. “He appeared nervous and only gave partial answers,” said the investigator.

A shopping bag in the passenger footwell contained a sizeable sum of money. “A cool bag was also found. The officer unzipped the bag and found bundles of cash inside,” said the investigator.

Around £150,000 cash in Scottish bank notes was recovered. So, too, was around £1,000 in both Scottish and English notes from a jacket.

Also located was paperwork linked to companies with which the driver appeared to have no connection.

He was arrested on suspicion of money laundering and had since contacted police and requested that the £1,000 jacket money be returned — but had laid no claim to the £150,000 sum.

The investigator also told how just over £1,000 had been seized from a 35-year-old Derby man on 19th July. He had been speeding on the M6 southbound close to Junction 41 near Penrith, and appeared “nervous and agitated” when speaking to police.

That man, said the investigator, had previously been stopped while travelling in the same vehicle in November, 2022. On that occasion, officers noted a strong smell of cannabis and found £23,310 cash in the vehicle.

Magistrates approved detention of all money which had been confiscated in April and July this year, concluding on the balance of probability that it could be linked to crime.