- Coronavirus pandemic
Image source, NCAImage caption, The two men laundered £70m police said
Two men have been jailed for a total of 33 years for running a £70m money laundering scheme, £10m of which came from fraudulent Covid loans.
Artem Terzyan, 38, from Russia and Deivis Grochiatskij, 44, from Lithuania were sentenced earlier this month at Kingston Crown Court.
Police believe the Bounce Back Loan fraud was one of the largest since the scheme started in 2020.
At present, police have recovered only £17,000, with most money sent abroad.
Details of the case can be reported after court restrictions were lifted.
The two men were first arrested in 2018 following a police operation which started the year before.
Police officers from the National Crime Agency and the Metropolitan Police watched large bags of cash being carried into their East London flats that had been picked up in lorry parks and service stations.
Both men, plus other members of their criminal network, opened bank accounts in the names of various fake companies they had set up, the NCA said.
The money was then sent from one shell company to another "in a complex web of transfers", before being sent to accounts in Germany, the Czech Republic, U.A.E, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Image source, NCAImage caption, Deivis Grochiatskij helped set up money laudering shell companies used in the loan fraud
While on bail after their 2018 arrest, the men started fraudulently claiming Bounce Back Loans in 2020 for the various shell companies they had set up.
The loans were part of government measures designed to cushion the UK economy from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
They claimed up to £50,000 a time, generating over £10m in total, with £3.2m claimed from one UK bank alone.
Sentencing the two men, High Court judge Rajeev Shetty said their Bounce Back Loan fraud played a part in "undermining the government and financial institutions" and that the "the British taxpayer will be staggered and upset that part of their hard-earned tax contributions was going into the pockets of criminals".
'Sophisticated money laundering'
At Kingston Crown Court, Terzyan was sentenced to 17 years in prison and Grochiatskij to 16 years after being convicted following a trial.
Andy Tickner, from the Organised Crime Partnership, said the pair had built "a sophisticated, large-scale money laundering system".
"They did so by setting up hundreds of bogus companies and utilising an international network of criminals under their control," he added.
"To top it off, they stole over £10m from British taxpayers in what is believed to be one of the largest Bounce Back Loan frauds since the scheme was introduced in 2020.
"These men and their network played a vital role in enabling other criminals to conceal and access their illicit earnings.
"The removal of this service will have been a massive blow to organised criminals in the UK and globally."