This week, law enforcement agencies all over the world tackled financial crimes, big and small: over a hundred Mafia-linked alleged money launderers were arrested in Spain and Italy, a London karate teacher was jailed for counterfeiting and money laundering, and a South African investment scammer is set to face court.
Find out more on these stories below.
106 money laundering suspects with Mafia links arrested in Spain and Italy
Organised crime in Spain and Italy was dealt a major blow this week when a year-long investigation led by the Spanish National Police culminated in the arrest of 106 suspects- mostly Italian nationals. The suspects were arrested and charged with online fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking, and property crime. Most of the arrests were made in Tenerife, Canary Islands, where the organised crime group (OCG)- which is alleged to be linked to the Italian Mafia- was based.
Although led by the Spanish National Police, the investigation has the support of the Italian National Police, Europol, and Eurojust. The results of the swoop also included the freezing of 118 bank accounts and the seizure of a marijuana plantation, as well as 224 credit cards, SIM cards, and point-of-sale terminals.
The OCG members arrested included computer and cryptocurrency experts, who used their technical knowhow to defraud hundreds of victims through a variety of online methods. Money laundering experts in the group would then launder the proceeds via shell companies and money mules.
The group made nearly €10m (£8.6m) in profit in 2020 alone.
Read more on this story on Sky News.
London court kicks karate teacher into jail for counterfeiting and money laundering
The Inner London Crown Court sentenced Mr Stephen Anthony Clarke Gostling to four years in prison for nine offences, which included running a fraudulent business, the distribution of counterfeit DVDs and footcare products, and money laundering. Mr Gostling pleaded guilty to all offences, which had earned him over £500,000.
Mr Gostling first came to the attention of authorities in 2017, when the Southwark Council’s Trading Standards team flagged one of his eBay accounts for selling suspicious DVDS. Anti-piracy investigators from the Film Content Protection Agency, who represented the Film Distributors’ Association, bought and tested several DVDs, and confirmed them to be counterfeit.
A subsequent seizure from four addresses linked to the suspect included 2,823 fake DVDs and 633 fake Scholl pedicure rollers. The court also heard that he had 22 eBay accounts, 28 PayPal accounts, and 31 bank accounts, which he used to sell counterfeit products and launder the proceeds. Mr Gostling ran his business from home using about 30 different names.
A Southwark councillor thanked his trading standards team for halting the fraud on customers and the film industry, adding that Mr Gostling’s profits would likely be confiscated.
Read more on this story in the Evening Standard.
South African investment scammer appears in court on 38 fraud and money laundering charges
The Rustenburg Magistrate’s Court, in South Africa’s North West province, heard the 38 charges against Mr Thabo James Modau on Wednesday. He stands accused of constructing an investment scam which was worth about R1.5 million (£74,5 thousand).
The South African Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DCPI), which is known as the ‘Hawks’, claim that Mr Modau persuaded investors to buy stakes in his company, Green Fields, in 2014.
He allegedly reeled the victims in by promising a 100% return at the end of the investment term. Once the funds had been deposited into Mr Modau’s personal account, he and the company disappeared, with no funds or share dividends paid out.
The resulting investigation traced him to Gauteng, where the Hawks’ Serious Commercial Crime Investigation unit arrested him on Tuesday.
At his court appearance, Mr Modau, who had to be tracked down to face the charges, was released on bail of R3000 (£149), which is 0.2% of the alleged fraud amount. Should he not abscond again, his case will be heard in early November while the Hawks investigate further.
Read more on this story in IOL.