AP

UK arrests wealthy Russian as police target Putin enablers

Dec 2, 2022, 4:45 PM | Updated: Dec 3, 2022, 6:48 am

LONDON (AP) — British authorities have arrested a wealthy Russian businessman on suspicion of money laundering, amid efforts to disrupt potential criminal activity by oligarchs and others linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The National Crime Agency said more than 50 officers from a specialized unit raided the suspect’s multi-million-pound home in London on Thursday, seizing a number of digital devices and a “significant” amount of cash. The man was not named.

“The NCA’s Combatting Kleptocracy Cell, only established this year, is having significant success investigating potential criminal activity by oligarchs, the professional service providers that support and enable them and those linked to the Russian regime,” agency director general Graeme Biggar said in a statement Saturday. “We will continue to use all the powers and tactics available to us to disrupt this threat.”

The arrest comes as Britain works with the United States, European Union and other countries to choke off the flow of money to Putin’s regime following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The U.K. has imposed sanctions on more than 1,300 individuals and entities, including 120 wealthy business leaders known as oligarchs, with worldwide assets estimated at more than 130 billion pounds ($160 billion), according to the British government.

The businessman targeted in Thursday’s raid was arrested on suspicion of money laundering, conspiracy to commit perjury and conspiracy to defraud the Home Office, the government agency responsible for immigration and law enforcement.

A 35-year-old man, who works at the suspect’s residence, was also arrested after he was seen leaving the property with a bag containing thousands of pounds in cash, the agency said. A third man, 39, who is the former boyfriend of the businessman’s current partner, was arrested at his home in the Pimlico area of west London on suspicion of offenses including money laundering and conspiracy to defraud.

The NCA said the operation was part of its effort to disrupt the activities of corrupt international business figures and their enablers. Some 100 operations that remove or reduce a criminal threat have been carried out against elites linked to Putin, the agency said.

“The cell has also investigated and taken discreet action against a significant number of elites who impact directly on the U.K., as well as targeting less conventional routes used to disguise movements of significant wealth, such as high-value asset sales via auction houses,” the agency said.

In October, the NCA said it arrested another London-based businessman on suspicion of assisting a sanctioned Russian oligarch conceal his ownership of properties in the U.K.

The agency said that it has worked with law enforcement agencies around the world to “target illicit wealth held abroad,” helping them freeze assets including numerous properties, eight yachts and four aircraft.

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