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TV baker's husband a money launderer

The husband of the winner of the BBC show The Great British Bake Off is serving a jail sentence for his role in a £60m (f68m) money-laundering operation.

Jo Wheatley (42) won the hearts of millions of viewers of the cookery show 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.



Gambler

However, there was no obvious sign of a man of the house and no reference made to Mr Wheatley.

It was 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 (f68m) 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 (f30,400) 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.

Mrs Wheatley told reporters: "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 said the time since her husband 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."



Proud

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."

hnews@herald.ie