Three Zimbabweans – two men and a woman — were seized at addresses in Leeds, England, on Wednesday in what West Yorkshire detectives say is a £1 million money laundering syndicate.

All three suspects detained on suspicion of fraud and money laundering were bailed to appear at a later date.

Detectives say large quantities of cash from the selling of "clocked" high mileage upmarket cars is already believed to have been spirited away to Zimbabwe.

The fraud involves buying high mileage upmarket cars at auction and turning back the mileometer clocks before reselling them at inflated prices. It is thought some of the vehicles have been sold through trade publications and car dealers.

Officers raided five domestic and commercial premises across Leeds as part of the investigation.

They swooped simultaneously looking for named suspects, cars with incorrect mileometer readings and items believed to be connected with fraud and other offences.

At an address on Old Lane, Beeston, a 31-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman were arrested.

In front of the house was a blue 07 registered Audi S4 estate, a black VW 4×4 estate car. In the driveway was a black Jaguar XK 4.2litre and parked on the road outside was a silver Audi A8 estate car.

In another swoop on a terrace house in Kirkstall Mount, Kirkstall, a 32-year-old man was also detained.

During the raid on a car sales premises in Wortley, police forced their way into the office. On display in the open compound were numerous Mercedes, BMWs including a convertible, a Range Rover and other upmarket models. Police photographed the cars and took details for checks on their history.

A large amount of vehicle documentation was seized along with a quantity of cash. Also recovered was paperwork relating to bank accounts.

Other addresses in Armley Road, Armley, and Roseville Road, Sheepscar, were also raided.

Police say the investigation was partly sparked by the introduction of a new police policy where people arrested in connection with "acquisitive crime" are subjected to further checks. If they get positive results, investigations under the Proceeds of Crime Act are triggered. 

As part of their "Why Should They " campaign, West Yorkshire Police are encouraging people to report those they suspect of living beyond their legal means.