Husband of Great British Bake Off winner in jail for money laundering
The husband of the winner of the BBC show The Great British Bake Off is serving a jail sentence for his role in a £60million money-laundering operation.
Jo Wheatley, 42, the winner of the cookery show, won the hearts of millions of viewers with her unassuming perfectionism.
However, her husband Richard, 44, is a professional poker player who admitted conspiracy with others to conceal, convert and transfer proceeds of crime.
He was sentenced to seven years at Southwark Crown Court on April 20 last year.
The BBC defended its decision to keep the conviction from viewers and said they did not need to know of the criminality.
Mrs Wheatley told the show’s producers of the situation with her husband at the outset.
Mrs Wheatley, who married her husband when she was just 17, said she had not wanted to make a fuss of the issue “as some X-Factor-style sob story”.
Instead, she impressed judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood with a series of successes including chocolate and raspberry pistachio meringues and limoncello and a tower of mini white chocolate pastries.
A section of The Great British Bake Off was filmed in the Wheatleys’ home in Essex.
Mrs Wheatley, together with the couple’s three sons, Billy, 24, Jesse, 21, and Dylan, 16, were shown around the pine kitchen table and playing cricket in the garden.
However, there was no obvious sign of a man of the house and no reference made to Mr Wheatley.
The Daily Telegraph disclosed earlier this month that Mr Wheatley had been jailed for fraud.
It has now been disclosed that he was part of a group who had laundered £60m of suspected drug money through a cash exchange.
Mr Wheatley is a gambler who uses the nickname “The Bear” and who once took home £26,500 in a single night for winning a tournament in 2008.
His page on the website Twitter shows he has gambled in the French resort of Deauville and the Mediterranean hotspot of Monaco, as well as staying in luxury at The Dorchester in London and eating at exclusive restaurants including The Ivy and China Tang.
His four co-defendants in the case were: Charith Abeysinghe, 28, a Sri Lankan film director, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal and was jailed for seven years; Kasun Maddumage, 26, who pleaded guilty to the same offence and was jailed for 18 months; and Madhawa Arachchi, 34, and Thurkka Nanisagran, 30, who denied conspiracy to steal. The outcome of the pleas are not known.
Mrs Wheatley told this newspaper: "I was honest with the producers from the start but I didn't want it to define me.
“I didn't want to use it as some X Factor–style sob story.”
She declined to add details of her husband’s conviction but said the time since he was jailed had been “devastating” for the family.
She added: “I've wanted to run a cookery school for a while and I thought the Bake Off would be a good launch pad for that.
“It was a way of trying to support my family. It’s been so wonderful to have this positive after everything we have been through.”
Mrs Wheatley also insisted she would stand by her husband who she said was “incredibly” proud of her: “I’ve known him since I was 15 and I love him.”
A BBC spokeswoman said: “Joanne's husband's background bears no relevance to the programme.
“She does not have a criminal conviction and was selected in the same way as the other contributors who appeared on the programme.
“She is a talented baker and those talents have been recognised, as she was crowned the winner.”