The UK National Crime Agency (NCA) has been granted freezing orders on eight bank accounts containing a total of more than £100 million, which is suspected to have derived from bribery and corruption in an overseas nation. The Account Freezing Orders (AFOs) were obtained at Westminster Magistrates Court on 12 August 2019, and represent the largest amount of money frozen using AFOs since they were introduced under the Criminal Finances Act 2017.
The orders will allow the NCA to further investigate the funds. If the money is found to be derived from, or intended for use in, unlawful conduct, the NCA will seek to recover it. Approximately £20m held by a linked individual was frozen following a hearing in December 2018.
Earlier this year, in unrelated cases, the NCA secured an account forfeiture order against more than £400,000 held in frozen bank accounts belonging to a Moldovan national. Another forfeiture order was granted on money held in an account belonging to the niece of Syrian ruler, Bashar al-Assad.
The NCA’s Ben Russell, Deputy Director of the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), said: “The NECC leads UK law enforcement efforts to tackle illicit finance, bringing the capabilities of multiple agencies together against the threat.
“In the last year, the NCA has used new powers such as Unexplained Wealth Orders and Account Freezing Orders to target suspected illicit assets, and we are already seeing some far reaching impact of this activity.”