The strength of Britain’s anti-money laundering regime has been underlined after the High Court opened the way for seizure of $7 million from a London bank account on the basis that it was the product of serious financial crime across several jurisdictions. The court’s decision to issue a civil recovery order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 represents a major success for the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).
The account was held by a Virgin Islands company which was the corporate vehicle of a Turkish businessman. SOCA argued that the funds were the product of a series of financial crimes, spanning a number of countries, whereby fraudulent banking instruments were issued and the proceeds of crime laundered.
In accepting SOCA’s plea that six credits remitted to the bank account between 1999 and 2005 – totalling more than $5.8 million – were the proceeds of crime, the court noted that ‘a long list of lies’ told by the businessman had been exposed under cross-examination in court and, viewed critically, his plea that the money came from innocent sources was not believable.
There was evidence that the businessman had used an alias, had claimed academic qualifications to which he was not entitled and had lied about his income and the extent of his property interests in Turkey. He had claimed that he was the beneficiary of ‘old family wealth’, but the court ruled that the greater part of his income consisted of the proceeds of fraud.
The fact that the businessman had not been convicted of any offence in the UK and had been acquitted of money laundering charges in Turkish criminal proceedings did not amount to conclusive proof of his innocence in the context of civil proceedings under the 2002 Act, the court ruled.
Save for relatively modest sums that were ruled not to be the proceeds of crime, the court decided that the funds in the bank account, including interest they had generated, were recoverable by SOCA.