THREE men have become the first in Scotland to be convicted of a major money laundering scam known as 'cuckoo smurfing".

Shop-keeper Muhammed Hameed roped in his uncle Saleem Shikari and worker Shahid Aslam to hide almost £700,000 of ill-gotten gains belonging to Scots gangsters.

The sophisticated scheme the trio were part of involves crime gangs replacing legitimate sums of cash - intended for transfer overseas - with "dirty" money.

They were snared as part of Operation Confab - a huge probe set-up to catch Hameed and his criminal associates.

When police swooped in 2013, the three were caught red-handed with a plastic bag stuffed with £75,000 of banknotes at Hameed's flat in Dundee.

Hameed (32), Aslam (36) and Shikari (52) are now behind bars after the they each pled guilty at the High Court in Glasgow to a charge under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

A judge remanded them in custody and they face a lengthy jail-term when they are sentenced next month.

The term "cuckoo smurfing" refers to the way the crime is carried out.

Cuckoo because those involved pay sums of money into accounts of other unsuspecting individuals. Smurfing refers to paying multiple amounts of cash into a variety of accounts.

Prosecutor Steven Borthwick explained to the court how the scam can work.

He told how an unsuspecting overseas customer would go to send funds to the UK to another innocent individual.

But, unknown to them, the person handling the transfer is linked to a money laundering gang.

This individual - known as the "controller" - will then pass on account details to a UK crime gang.

The next step sees this gang replace the legitimate money with their ill-gotten gains - and the customer expecting the cash transfer is none the wiser.

The money originally deposited overseas is retained by the "controller".

He instead transfers these funds to "a cash pool account" often based in Dubai.

This is then used as an avenue to transfer money back to the UK gangsters.

Mr Borthwick added: "The criminal proceeds raised by the UK based crime gangs have thus been successfully laundered and the gang owes nothing but a commission to the 'controller' for his work.

"It is a sophisticated crime operated by a syndicate of highly organised crime gangs."

The court heard how the shopkeeper along with Shikari and Aslam were clocked making "multiple cash deposits" at various banks in Dundee.

Mr Borthwick said this was on "a regular, almost daily basis" often involving "significant sums of money".

The prosecutor went on: "The deposits were made to the accounts of individuals - and sometimes companies - who had no personal or other connection to any of the accused."

Detectives eventually decided to make their move on August 27 2013.

This was after Hameed was spotted collecting a suspicious plastic bag near to his Dundee home.

Within minutes, police burst into the flat and found the trio - along with two other men - inside.

Hameed, Shikari, of Dundee, and Aslam, of Kirkcaldy, were held as police continued to build a watertight case against the three.

The court was told a total of £672,382 was effectively laundered on behalf of Scots crime mobs.

Hameed, Shikari and Aslam had originally gone to trial, but admitted their guilt during the case.

Co-accused Philip Reid, 47, of Glasgow, also faced a Proceeds of Crime charge, but his not guilty plea was accepted.

Judge Johanna Johnston QC deferred sentencing until next month for reports.