This week, UK authorities arrested several human trafficking suspects with links to illicit drug trading; Spanish police and tax officials foiled a Russian-backed money laundering operation based in Tenerife; and Switzerland got set to return over $100m to Uzbekistan, originally seized during a long-running investigation into its former president.
Find out more on these stories below.
UK police arrest three human trafficking suspects linked to Birmingham drug trade
Police officers in Birmingham arrested three human trafficking suspects in the city centre and the Nechells neighbourhood in morning raids on 17 August 2022, as part of an operation overseen by the National Crime Agency (NCA) that focuses on combatting human trafficking and modern slavery. The suspects are thought to be additionally be linked to the 2021 discovery of a cannabis farm by North Yorkshire’s Cleveland Police Force.
A 35-year-old male was arrested on suspicion of unlawfully enslaving and subjugating another person, and a 26-year-old man was held for money laundering and possession of illegal narcotics, both in Birmingham. Additionally, around £25,000 in cash was seized from the raided address. Another suspect, a 51-year-old male, was arrested in Nechells and faces charges of making travel arrangements for the victim, with the intent of exploitation.
The NCA’s senior investigating officer, Paul Boniface, explained that their probe is into an organised crime group, which is thought to specialise in trafficking mostly Vietnamese victims into the UK to work on illegal cannabis farms. He added that “this type of exploitation is often hidden in plain sight,” and implored “anyone who sees anything suspicious that they may think may be connected to modern slavery to report it.”
Read more on this story at the National Crime Agency.
Money laundering scheme with links to Russia uncovered in the south of Tenerife
Four arrests were made in the south of Tenerife when the Guardia Civil and the State Tax Administration Agency (AEAT) uncovered a complex money laundering and tax evasion scheme connected to Russian money.
Two Spanish and two Russian nationals were arrested in connection with a plot that used foreign investment companies, funds, shell companies, and trust offices to disguise flows of money into Tenerife originating from Russia.
The investigation dates to early 2018, when the Guardia Civil launched investigations into a Spanish company that had financed itself through private loans from Russian individuals. Prior to this, the company had acquired the land of the former Tropicana nightclub in Adeje with plans to develop the property into a luxury shopping centre.
The joint investigation by the Guardia Civil and the Tax Agency revealed that, in order to raise funds to proceed with the development, the company had resorted to investment funds and foreign companies with Russian capital of 'dubious origin'.
Read more on this story at Spain Today.
Switzerland to return Uzbekistan's assets frozen in money laundering probe
Switzerland agreed on the 16th of August 2022 to return more than $100m to Uzbekistan, a hefty sum which was seized during a long-running financial crime investigation involving the daughter of former president Islam Karimov.
Islam Karimov served as president of Uzbekistan for 27 years until his death in 2016. His daughter, Gulnara Karimova, formerly a businesswoman and United Nations representative in Geneva, received a five-year sentence and was put under house arrest in 2015 on charges of embezzlement and extortion, the violation of which saw her jailed in Uzbekistan in 2019.
Karimova denied any wrongdoing.
The criminal proceedings against Karimova in Switzerland included charges of suspected money laundering via telecommunications contracts and have to date resulted in the seizure of $131 million.
The Swiss government said more funds might become available from any assets that may be confiscated in future. Switzerland's president, Ignazio Cassis, and the Uzbek Minister of Justice, Ruslanbek Davletov, also agreed to form a trust fund to use the money for sustainable development projects in the Central Asian country.
"The fund will allow the returned assets to be used for the benefit of the population of Uzbekistan," Cassis said.
Read more on this story at Yahoo Finance.
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