The City of London Police’s Financial Investigation Unit has seized more than £2 million believed to have been laundered in London by an organised crime group with links to the Italian Mafia.
The seizure follows a two-year investigation into UK bank accounts that were receiving funds from several companies in Italy.
The Mafia organisation behind the complex international operation is thought to be the infamous Calabrian Ndrangheta, which was using shell companies in the UK to launder funds.
According to the UK investigators, who were supported by Europol and Guardia di Finanza, funds were being sent to an account held in the name of Play Life Ltd and then to a second UK company account using false addresses.
They concluded that the accounts were being used for ‘layering’, where transactions across multiple accounts disguise the original source of funds.
Most of the money was in a company account set up by Fabio Castaldi, identified by Italian police as a professional money launderer.
He and Enzo Ceravolo, the sole director of Play Life Ltd, gave a London address when setting up the business, but it was a forwarding address, that hadn’t appeared to have been used by either man as a place of business.
The court was told that Mr Ceravolo, who has an existing conviction for tax evasion, had abandoned any attempt to contest the seizure of the cash and that neither he nor Play Life Ltd, had explained the source of the money.
As a spokesman for the Financial Investigation Unit commented, the true intentions of the individuals behind this shell company had been “to launder millions of pounds, obtained through criminality”.
Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “This complex conspiracy almost sounds like the plot of a film, but as investigators have revealed, this was a very real financial crime to launder ill-gotten gains.
“Not being able to explain the provenance of assets, including cash, is a red flag to investigators. They will do everything in their power to find out where the assets have come from and how they may be connected to criminality.
“Of course, where a person can’t explain what looks like anomalous wealth, forensics experts use their skills and experience to prove innocence or in this case guilt.”