A two-year investigation into suspected money laundering has led to the Met’s largest ever cash forfeiture using an Account Freezing Order (AFO).
Twenty five bank accounts holding more than €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.
The total amount seized was €1,952,950.58.
Detective Superintendent Nick Stevens, of 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.
“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.”
The forfeiture application for the bank accounts was granted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 15 April. A £20,000 cost order was also granted.
The application was made under Section 303Z14 of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002.
Account Freezing Orders were created after the introduction of the Criminal Finances Act 2017, which made amendments to POCA 2002.