While the UK mourned the passing of its longest-ever reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II last week, around the world the work of law enforcement officials continued unabated. In Spain, a major European money laundering kingpin was arrested at his home in Malaga; in New York, a money-service business owner pleaded guilty to violating the US Bank Secrecy Act and in England a former U19s football international was sentenced for drug dealing and money laundering.
Find out more on these stories below.
Europe’s most-wanted money laundering suspect arrested in Spain
Spanish Guardia Civil officers swooped in to arrest British-Irish national, Johnny Morrissey, the alleged kingpin in the notorious organised crime group, Kinahan, on September 12 2022 in Malaga, southern Spain.
Europol stated that the arrest was the culmination of a one and half year-long, multi-national law enforcement agency investigation, during which time Morrissey and his associates are thought to have laundered over €200m on behalf of criminal organisations worldwide.
The money laundering ring, considered one of Europe’s largest, exploited the so-called Hawala money transfer system, to collect and ‘transfer’ illicit funds between organised crime groups. The gang further tried to cover their tracks by:
- creating a brand of Vodka marketed in Costa del Sol to mask the origins of its funds;
- rounding a Gibraltar-linked shell company in the UK to launder illegal earnings while hiding the identities of the enterprise’s true beneficial owners; and
- running a car dealership where the smuggling compartments were allegedly built into the vehicles
An investigation was initiated by the Spanish Guardia Civil when it seized 200kg of cocaine and €500,000 cash concealed in customised compartments in vehicles linked to the gang.
Once Europol was alerted, its European Financial and Economic Crime Centre provided strategic and operational support to the Spain-led investigation, with support from enforcement agencies in the UK, Netherlands, and Ireland.
Read more on this story at Europol.
New York banker pleads guilty to anti-money laundering faults which violated US Bank Secrecy Act
A New York man pleaded guilty on the 13th of September 2022 in the Eastern District of New York to failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program as part of a scheme to bring lucrative and high-risk international financial business to an unsophisticated credit union.
According to court documents, from 2014 to 2016 Hanan Ofer operated the New York State Employees Federal Credit Union Service Organization (NYSEFCU-CUSO), a money services business, which was required to have an effective anti-money laundering program.
The documents further show that Ofer’s collusion in a racket, which saw NYSEFCU accrue over $1bn dollars’ worth of high-risk transactions, constituted a violation of the US Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) anti-money laundering (AML) recording and reporting requirements.
Ofer, a seasoned professional in the international banking trade, trained and experienced in AML compliance requirements and processes, had ‘wilfully failed’ to institute an efficient financial controls framework at NYSEFCU from 2014 to 2016. As a result, the business processed multiple high-risk transactions, including millions in cash from a Mexican bank, without triggering any of the red flags which following the BSA protocols would have done.
He simultaneously duped the NYSEFCU into believing that the BSA’s AML requirements were being honoured and failed to submit even one suspicious activity report during that period, despite his legal obligation to do so.
Ofer was originally charged along with another defendant, Gyanendra Asre, in April 2021, for running an unlicensed money transmitting business and several BSA violations. At the time, Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) Special Agent-in-charge Peter C. Fitzhugh was damning of Ofer and his co-accused, stating that “the Bank Secrecy Act was established to protect our financial system and maintain the integrity of our banking system. As alleged, Ofer and Asre blatantly disregarded our laws and placed their own enrichment above all else.”
Read more on this story at US DOJ.
Former England U19s footballer jailed for trafficking cannabis and money laundering
The Liverpool Crown Court ruled on 7 September 2022 that Faye Dunn, a former football player who represented England U19s, will serve three years and nine months in jail for trafficking cannabis and laundering the proceeds on behalf of a drug gang.
Her father and partner in crime, Michael Dunn, who is reported to have had multiple previous criminal convictions for drug- and theft-related offences, received a two-year custodial sentence suspended for two years.
Ms Dunn, who was elsewhere described as an ‘accountant for a drug gang’, is a mother of two, and had previously been involved in several businesses in the Merseyside area including children’s play centre and a restaurant. When her legal enterprises floundered in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions, she resorted to crime.
Using the mobile encryption service Encrochat, she adopted the handle ‘StiffNinja’ to communicate with her father, ‘ZincBat’, and partner Stephen Canty, known as ‘LedZeppelin’, to arrange drug deals - including an instance of conspiring to traffic 24 kgs of cannabis - and launder £650,000. They were unaware that UK law enforcement agencies’ Operation Venetic had accessed Encrochat, leading to Ms Dunn’s arrest at Manchester Airport in June 2022.
Detective Constable Michael Steventon of Merseyside Police commented that he hoped “this sentencing sends a strong message to perpetrators that crime doesn’t pay – we are taking action and bringing drug dealers to justice. We will continue to be relentless in our pursuit of offenders.”
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