26 Feb 2019
A London court has ordered the HSBC bank accounts of the son of a former prime minister to be frozen, and for him to hand over hundreds of thousands of pounds to the authorities after police said they suspected the funds were linked to criminal activity.
According to the National Crime Agency (NCA), 22-year-old Vlad Luca Filat had no registered income in the United Kingdom, however HSBC records showed that his accounts and living expenses were funded by large deposits from overseas companies, mainly based in Turkey and the Cayman Islands.
Multiple cash deposits were identified across the UK branch network, with £98,100 paid in over one three-day period.
“Freezing orders for three HSBC accounts held by 22-year-old Vlad Luca Filat were granted in May 2018 – under new forfeiture provisions introduced by the Criminal Finances Act 2017 – after NCA financial investigators suspected the funds derived from illegal activity by his father, Vladimir Filat, the ex-Prime Minister of Moldova,” the crime agency explained.
After moving to London in July 2016 to begin his studies, Vlad Luca led an ‘extravagant lifestyle,’ spending significant sums of money on luxury goods and services, including a £200,000 Bentley ‘Bentayga’ bought from a Mayfair dealership.
He also paid £390,000 up front in rent for a Knightsbridge penthouse, the NCA explained.
This month, a City of London Magistrates Court granted forfeiture orders on Vlad Luca’s three frozen accounts, requiring £466,321.72 to be forfeited.
The Judge said: “I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the cash was derived from his father’s criminal conduct in Moldova.”
The ex-PM is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence after he was convicted in June 2016 for his part in the disappearance of $1billion (£646m) from three Moldovan banks.
The missing money is equivalent to an eighth of the ex-Soviet republic’s entire GDP.
Efforts to obtain a comment from Vlad Luca or his father were unsuccessful.
HSBC declined to comment.
Ava Lee, Senior Anti-Corruption Campaigner at Global Witness, said: “This kid is the son of an former prime minister imprisoned for an abuse of power related to a billion-dollar scandal, driving to uni in a Bentley, renting a penthouse that costs more each day than most students pay a month.”
“The National Crime Agency should now be asking the bank, the university and the car dealer what checks they made on this suspicious spender and his Cayman Island companies,” said Lee.
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