Two money launderers who helped hide at least £1.7m in criminal earnings have been spared jail.

Asim Altaf Rathore, 43, of Wood Street in Walthamstow, and accomplice, Ibrar Alam, 43, of Salford, Greater Manchester, were responsible for the collection of cash from organised criminal groups in north west England and Scotland.

To avoid attracting the attention of the authorities the money was divided into smaller amounts and paid into numerous bank accounts.

Rathore was sentenced to three months in prison, suspended for a year, and 100 hours of unpaid work, while Alam received a six month sentence, suspended for 18 months, plus a curfew and 150 hours of unpaid work.

“Rathore and Alam were providing a service designed to enrich themselves and enable criminal groups in different parts of the UK to evade the attention of authorities,” the National Crime Agency’s Greg McKenna said.

Legitimate business accounts, including payments for the supply of goods to Pakistan, and personal accounts held by students studying in the UK were used by the pair.

The laundering operation ended in April 2012 when officers arrested an accomplice of Rathore and Alam who was in possession of a bag containing £123,000 in English and Scottish banknotes.

The holdall also contained a ledger which revealed more than £1.7m-worth of money laundering.

Alam was arrested on the same day the bag was seized and Rathore was apprehended and charged following an investigation analysing mobile phone contact between the pair.

Both men pleaded guilty.