28 Feb 2019
UK law enforcement officials are seeking court orders to freeze 95 bank accounts mostly held by overseas students as part of an investigation into money laundering by organized crime groups.
The multi-agency effort, led by the newly created National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), is targeting £3.6 million believed to be either the proceeds of crime or intended to further illicit activity. The accountholders, however, may be unaware of the ultimate source of the funds or that the money is linked to criminal organizations, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said in a statement.
Investigators singled out the accounts in part because of suspicious cash deposits from automated service devices, including frequent though small payments seemingly designed to circumvent bank anti-money laundering controls.
The deposits, which originated in China, were declared as financial support for the students but subsequently used to buy goods that were later exported without any clear ties between the buyers and the source of funds, according to the NCA.
In announcing the operation, the agency took note of the “groundbreaking stance [of one bank] to cooperate on a wholesale, evidential basis from the outset.” The cooperation helped UK officials identify a “large number of suspected accounts,” according to the NCA.
The agencies have applied for orders from six courts across the country in the hopes of freezing the funds until the completion of their investigations.
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