UK Freezes 8 Accounts, Suspects Funds are from Overseas Graft

The UK National Crime Agency froze on Wednesday eight bank accounts with more than £100 million (US$ 121,004,893) it suspects were obtained through corruption and bribery in an overseas nation.


nca-logoNational Crime Agency froze eight bank accounts (Photo by: National Crime Agency @NCA_UK)It is the largest amount frozen since Account Freezing Orders were introduced in 2017 to allow authorities to go after people who are trying to launder money through the UK.

The agency will now try to find out how the money was obtained and if unlawful conduct is detected, the funds will be seized.

 The NCA linked the money to an individual whose £20 million ($24,205,269) were already frozen.

 Earlier this year, the NCA seized funds from frozen bank accounts of the son of the former prime minister of Moldova, Vlad Luca Filat, and the niece of Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad, Anisseh Chawkat.

 The 22-year old Filat had to hand over almost £500,000 ($605,227) from three bank accounts. Until then, his lavish spending in London included a £1,000-per-day ($1,212) Chelsea penthouse and a £200,000 ($242,447) Bentley Bentayga.

 His father Vladimir is currently serving his nine-years sentence after the was arrested in 2015 for taking part in the so called ‘’theft of the century’’ when £800 million ($969,698,109) was laundered through Latvia’s financial system after it was stolen from three Moldovan banks.

 Assad’s niece Chawkat, who had been studying design at the University of the Arts London, saw authorities confiscated £25,000 ($30,323) from her account. The NCA found that 56 cash deposits, totalling more than £150,000 ($182,034) were paid into her account at branches of Barclays across England in 2017 and 2018, despite her having no identifiable source of income.

 NCA’s report states that “this activity is consistent with the use of an informal value transfer system which may result in the laundering of criminal cash and, in this particular case, had the effect of circumventing EU financial sanctions designed to restrict the use and availability of Syrian regime funds.”

 NCA Deputy Director of the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) said that his department “leads UK law enforcement efforts to tackle illicit finance, bringing the capabilities of multiple agencies together against the threat.” 

The agency used last year its new powers such as Unexplained Wealth Orders and Account Freezing Orders to target suspected illicit assets, “and we are already seeing some far reaching impact of this activity,” he added.