A wealthy Russian businessman was arrested at his multi-million-pound London home on suspicion of money laundering.
The 58-year-old man, who has not been named, was held by the National Crime Agency (NCA) on Thursday on suspicion of offences including money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the Home Office and conspiracy to commit perjury.
The operation was conducted by a new team of officers investigating potential criminal activity by oligarchs linked to Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
A 35-year-old man, who works at the residence, was arrested nearby on suspicion of money laundering and obstruction of an officer after he was seen leaving with a bag “containing thousands of pounds in cash”, according to NCA officials.
A third man, 39, who is the former boyfriend of the businessman’s current partner, was arrested at his home in Pimlico, London, for offences including money laundering and conspiracy to defraud.
The NCA said more than 50 officers from its Combatting Kleptocracy Cell were involved in the operation at the businessman’s multi-million-pound London property, where a number of digital devices and a significant quantity of cash was also seized following a search.
Graeme Biggar, director general of the NCA, said: “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.
“We will continue to use all the powers and tactics available to us to disrupt this threat.”
All three of the men who were arrested have been released on bail.
The NCA said it is the latest operation carried out as part of its efforts to disrupt the activities of corrupt international business figures and their enablers.
The agency claims that it has secured almost 100 “disruptions” – actions that remove or reduce a criminal threat – have been carried out against Putin-linked elites and their enablers.
This includes account freezing orders over accounts held by people closely linked to sanctioned Russians.
“The cell has also investigated and taken discreet action against a significant number of elites who impact directly on the UK, as well as targeting less conventional routes used to disguise movements of significant wealth, such as high-value asset sales via auction houses,” the NCA said.
“Internationally, the NCA’s work has assisted in the freezing of numerous properties, eight yachts and four aircraft, and it continues to work in concert with the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation to ensure that other assets in the UK are frozen, as well as with global partners to target illicit wealth held abroad.”
The Combatting Kleptocracy Cell was launched this year in response to “the surge in money-laundering activity from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus ever since Russian president Vladimir Putin relaunched his invasion on Ukraine in February”.
It has a mandate to investigate corrupt elites, sanction evaders, and enablers of money laundering.
Last month, the British Government said that it had frozen assets worth more than £18 billion held by Russian oligarchs, other individuals and businesses sanctioned over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
More than 1,200 individuals, including oligarchs such as former Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, have been hit with asset freezes and travel bans.