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Criminals jailed for fraud and money laundering

July 12th 2106

Two Russian men living in London have been jailed at Southwark Crown Court for operating a network of 'cash mules' to launder money for cybercriminals. Three other Russian nationals, also living in London, have received lesser sentences for their part as mules.

30-year-old Aslan Abazov, unemployed of Cromwell Road, SW7 (shown on the left in the photo), was sentenced to seven years and six months' imprisonment for two counts of conspiracy to defraud the UK Clearing Banks and two counts of converting criminal property contrary to section 327(1)(c) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Aslan Gergov, 29, unemployed of Bath Terrace, SE1 (also in the photo) was sentenced to seven years and three months' imprisonment for two counts of conspiracy to defraud the UK Clearing Banks, and two counts of converting criminal property contrary to section 327(1)(c) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

One of their mules, Sergo Sahin, 26, unemployed of no fixed address, was sentenced to 18 weeks' imprisonment for conspiracy to defraud the UK Clearing Banks between 1 January 2014 and 10 November 2014.

At earlier hearings, Andrejs Ignatjevs, 48, unemployed of Victoria Road, Ruislip was sentenced to five months' imprisonment for conspiracy to defraud the UK Clearing Banks between 1 January 2014 and 10 November 2014. And 33-year-old Kazbek Varitlov, unemployed of Wesley Avenue, E16 was sentenced to seven and a half months' imprisonment for conspiracy to defraud the UK Clearing Banks between 1 January 2014 and 10 November 2014.

The five had all pleaded guilty to the offence, and legal proceedings will now commence under the Proceeds of Crime Act to confiscate assets.

Malware used to transfer funds

On 9 November 2014, five business accounts held at a leading high street bank were compromised by cybercriminals who used malware to transfer funds into 'mule' accounts opened by employees of Gergov and Abazov. The funds siphoned from the five accounts totalled almost £1 million. After the funds were transferred from the original business accounts, the cash was laundered through 166 mule accounts prior to being withdrawn at a number of venues across London including Heathrow Airport. Typically, the gang would exchange 2000-4000 Euros at each currency exchange they visited.

Activities undertaken by the gang to launder the funds included Sahin buying items of women's jewellery at Cartier, a white gold bracelet for £3,400 and a white gold, diamond love necklace for £2,970. Both items are believed to have been destined for Russia. Sahin bought the items using the name of 'Marcin Rybnik'.

Gergov, Abazov and Sahin were also caught on camera at a west London store where they had bought Euros via a mule account totalling £2,504. Ignatjevs and Varitlov were arrested as they attempted repeatedly to buy large sums of Euros from foreign exchange outlets at Heathrow Airport. A subsequent search of Vartilov's address resulted in the recovery of a large quantity of bank debit cards, none of which were in his name.

Detectives determined that Abazov and Gergov were the principle organisers of the group. Both were arrested on 14 October 2015 and they were charged the following day – both being remanded in custody.

Analysis of their computers provided evidence of them jointly deciding which bank accounts were opened, orchestrating the movement of the money in and out of the UK and controlling the activities of the mules. They were also found to be controlling similar money laundering operations throughout Germany, Austria and Poland.

An additional method the gang used to move funds abroad was to buy high value watches or jewellery in the UK and employ a mule to take it to Russia, possibly by wearing it on a flight. When it reached Russia the item would be resold to recoup the funds.

£4.5 million fraud

Detectives established there were further victims. Information obtained from a number of devices belonging to the gang evidenced further losses to additional victims of around £3.5 million over a two-year period, bring the known total of their fraudulent activities to around £4.5million. However, total losses to victims due to the activities of this network are thought to be far in excess of this figure.

Abazov and Gergov were also using their illegal earnings to fund a building project in Nalchik, Russia that had been underway for 12 months.

The network was run via a system of hierarchy with the mules being at the bottom and Abazov and Gergov at the top - they liaised with the cybercriminals who had originally hacked the business accounts.

To date, just £190,731.68 of the cash taken on 9 November has been recovered.

Detective Inspector Jason Tunn of the Met's Operation Falcon said: "The evidence in this case showed that Gergov and Abazov were the head of a sophisticated, highly organised, international money laundering project operated to support global cybercrime activity. The losses sustained by the UK victims were significant, with evidence produced to the court showing that the gang's profits were being used to fund building projects in Russia in further efforts to launder their criminal proceeds.”

DI Tunn continued: "Their convictions demonstrate the determination with which the Met Police will actively pursue these criminals to disrupt their activities and arrest them."

 

By Get Safe Online