Police freeze £1.6million from ‘complex web’ of 25 bank accounts linked to mafia cash after probe into Italian crime gang money laundering firms in London
- Met Police say dozens of front companies to launder money were founded in UK
- Gangsters used a dead man’s identity and firms were set up by third parties
- Shell companies were allegedly set up to funnel the proceeds of crime
Police have frozen £1.6million from a ‘complex web’ of 25 bank accounts linked to mafia cash after a probe into Italian crime gang money-laundering firms in London.
Investigators from the Met Police Economic Crime Unit found that dozens of front companies were opened in the UK.
Each had been set up or was partly managed by a third party in an attempt to hide the real movement of money.
Investigators from the Met Police Economic Crime Unit found that dozens of front companies were opened in the UK (file photo of New Scotland Yard, central London)
The investigation, which began in 2018, also revealed gangsters used fake identities. One was taken from a dead man while another was a victim of identity theft.
These were used to set up business accounts with banks where money launderers could move millions of euros from Europe to the UK accounts, before paying back to Italian accounts – a criminal technique known as ‘layering.’
The seizure was made with an Account Freezing order (AFO) – new legislation brought in in 2017, which was granted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
Detective Superintendent Nick Stevens, from the Met’s Economic Crime Command, said: ‘This was a painstaking investigation into a complex web of shell companies based in the UK which we were able to demonstrate to the court were set up to launder a large amount of money from overseas, likely obtained through criminality.
‘We worked with Italian authorities to build what became a compelling case. This case shows that our officers have the capability, knowledge and ability to identify and disrupt sophisticated money laundering operations.
The seizure was made with an Account Freezing order (AFO) – new legislation brought in in 2017, which was granted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court (pictured)
‘It also shows that the Met will use all the investigative and legislative tools available to us to seize ill-gotten gains, and stop proceeds of crime becoming sources of income and wealth.’
A Met police spokesperson added: ‘A two-year investigation into suspected money laundering has led to the Met’s largest ever cash forfeiture using an Account Freezing Order.
What is an Account Freezing Order?
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) can apply for a freezing order to preserve suspected ill-gotten money.
This stops people from using the account in questions, holding the money until a civil recovery order is made.
The CPS can also apply to appoint an Interim Receiver where the assets for civil recovery need to be investigated.
The Interim Receiver has power to preserve the assets whilst he investigates them.
‘Twenty five bank accounts holding more than Euro 1.9million were frozen following an AFO application, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, which was granted at Westminster Magistrates Court last week.
‘The complex investigation, led by officers from the Met’s Economic Crime Unit, started in 2018 and centred around members of an organised crime network based in Italy.
‘The investigation found that dozens of front companies were opened in the UK using company service providers, with the intention of hiding the true origin and destination of the funds.
‘False identities were used, gathered from amongst others a dead man and a victim of identity theft, to obtain business banking facilities with a major bank.
‘These accounts were then used to perform transactions where millions of Euros were laundered from Europe to the UK accounts, and then paid back to Italian accounts.
‘This process of executing a series of transactions across multiple accounts to disguise and obscure the original source of funds is called ‘layering’.
‘The investigation, led by Detective Sergeant Geoff Donoghue, involved extensive telephone and document analysis in order to evidence the scale of the laundering conspiracy.’
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