A courier who was caught taking a bag containing more than £44,000 in cash through North Yorkshire has been jailed.

Denis Etsi, 24, claimed to police that he didn’t know about the money in the car he was driving when police stopped him on the A19 north of Thirsk, York Crown Court heard.

But when he appeared before a plea and trial preparation hearing, he admitted that he knew about the money and that it was the proceeds of crime.

Etsi, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to having £44,445 of criminal cash on the basis that he was a courier who was delivering it to another person and would be paid £300 for his efforts. He also admitted driving without insurance.

Judge Simon Hickey accepted the basis, saying that the evidence indicated Etsi had been given the money to convey from one place to another on behalf of others.

“Your bank account shows no real money, there is no lavish lifestyle,” he told Etsi. “You were driving a motor car not belonging to you, no doubt lent to you by others further up the chain.”

He jailed Etsi for 12 months and ordered that the money be confiscated. He also put six penalty points on Etsi’s driving licence.

Defence barrister Catherine Duffy said: “He was working in the UK and lost his job. He made a foolish decision in committing this offence and he is genuinely remorseful. He wants to serve his sentence and go back home to Albania.”

Etsi had been unable to work in his home country and had come to the UK four years ago to find work. He had no previous convictions either in the UK or Albania.

Harry Crowson, prosecuting, said police stopped Etsi at the services on the A19 north of Thirsk on October 2. He didn’t have insurance for the car.