Millions of pounds of laundered criminal money has been recovered by the National Crime Agency (NCA) after an investigation into a corrupt Liberian business account.
On 8 April 2020, the NCA issued a Notice of Forfeiture on the account’s balance of $8 million dollars (£6.4 million), which investigators argued was part of a fund operated for the purpose of tax evasion, money laundering, bribery and corruption.
The NCA’s investigation began when Commerzbank AG London approached the National Economic Crime Centre after noticing unusual activity on an account held by a Liberian company called ‘The Albatross Limited’.
The bank account had been internally investigated and suspended after an individual had tried to set up a new account and move the money, explaining that it was to be paid to various charities. Since then, no one had attempted to touch the money.
The company behind the account was incorporated in Liberia, West Africa, in the 1970s and was purportedly set up to operate large container ships for an international shipping company.
Working in partnership with the bank, NCA investigators were able to secure and analyse over 10 years of data which established that the account had been set up using fake identities.
The shipping company had no knowledge of the company and were able to show that it had never appeared on any of their balance sheets.
All of those identified as being affected by the application gave their consent for the administrative forfeiture of the funds totalling $8,042.059.57.
The money had been held under an Account Freezing Order, granted to the NCA at Westminster Magistrates Court in October 2019.
Robert McMillan at Commerzbank said: “At Commerzbank we have a strong compliance culture and have invested significant resources in our AML policies and controls, so we are pleased to have worked with the NCA to achieve this result.”