Crackdown On Money Laundering
Regulators are becoming increasingly stringent on the way law firms comply with anti-money laundering (AML) procedures.
Earlier this week, we reported that firms are improving their money laundering processes. However, on a wider scale, the crackdown on money laundering has begun.
Following over 40 complaints to Action Fraud and the Citizens Advice Bureau, a recent investigation conducted by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, uncovered that online property business Oliver Knights was being used as a vehicle for fraud, that led to at least £50,000 loss for tenants and landlords.
According to a Trading Standards statement the complaints:
“exposed how the business was used a vehicle for fraud, causing financial loss, distress and significant inconvenience (such as leaving people without a home) for prospective tenants and landlords.”
The three criminals pleaded guilty to money laundering, having knowingly allowed their bank accounts to be used to launder the proceeds of lettings frauds between the 31st December 2013 and 4th September 2015.
Adnan Iqbal, from Barking was sentenced to 10 months (suspended for 18 months), Shaidul Islam and Kamram Malik, from London were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment (suspended for 18 months).
All three were ordered to do 120 hours unpaid community work. Islam and Malik were also ordered to pay £15,000 which is being distributed to the victims as compensation.
Lord Toby Harris, the Chair of National Trading Standards, says:
“The defendants knowingly allowed fraudulent payments to be made into bank accounts and – while not being the architects of the fraud – have benefited financially from fraudulent activity. We are determined to clamp down on those who benefit from the financial exploitation of others and I am grateful to our investigators for their determination to secure justice and compensation for the victims, who have been left out of pocket and, in some cases, emotionally scarred.
“The internet is a natural place to search for rental properties, but online search portals can be manipulated by criminals and it’s important to be vigilant.
“You should always check properties through accredited schemes – such as the Residential Landlords Accreditation Scheme or the National Approved Letting Scheme – and avoid paying deposits before you have visited the property yourself. Importantly, never feel pressured to transfer money to strangers.”
Trading Standards says:
“Oliver Knights advertised properties to let on websites such as Rightmove, Zoopla, Gumtree and their own site to attract interest from prospective tenants.
“After initial dialogue and property viewings, consumers paid deposits and rent in advance – totalling hundreds or thousands of pounds – only to be told that the property was no longer available, or to not hear anything further from Oliver Knights representatives.
“Some of the properties offered for rent had never been available and had been falsely advertised without the consent of the owners.
“In other instances, consumers paid deposits and rent and moved into the property before discovering that the transaction had been completed without the landlord’s knowledge and/or without the necessary payments being passed on to the landlord by Oliver Knights. This left some renters without a home and caused financial loss to landlords.”
Another investigation conducted by the National Crime Agency, saw Chinese national Feng Xu (43) pleading guilty to 22 fraud, false ID and money laundering offences.
Xu was responsible for operating a network of properties used by organised crime gangs for prostitution and cannabis farms.
The National Crime Agency investigators found evidence that Xu had used multiple false identities to source hundreds of different properties for a number of criminal networks. 31 different false or fraudulent Chinese or Portuguese passports were also recovered, along with numerous ID documents.
One computer database held by Xu listed 446 different addresses which he had been involved in renting. These would then be set up as brothels which would exploit women.
Xu appeared at Birmingham Crown Court on 8th October, pleading guilty to the 22 offences, leaving three other charges on file. He will be sentenced on 22nd November 2019.
Matt Rivers, the National Crime Agency Branch Commander said:
“Xu was a prolific operator, and an important enabler for multiple different criminal networks involved in prostitution, sexual exploitation and drug production.
“Using numerous false identities and false documentation he was able to supply hundreds of different properties across the UK.
“We believe that taking him out will have caused significant disruption to a number of different organised crime groups involved in sex trafficking and drug production.
“Tackling modern slavery and human trafficking remains one of our highest priorities, but we still need the public to help, be our eyes and ears and alert us to activity in their communities that may be concerning them.
“If you have suspicions about activity that may be linked to exploitation please call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700, or the police on 101.”