London Laundromat: Police seize £2 million profits of Italian mafia gang held in British banks
Westminster magistrates’ court ordered the forfeiture of the cash after detectives submitted evidence that it was being channelled through London in a money-laundering operation.
Investigators were aided by Europol and the Guardia di Finanza. The mafia organisation involved is understood to the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta.
Most of the money was in a company account at Lloyds Bank set up by Fabio Castaldi, identified by Italian police as a professional money launderer.
Castaldi and Enzo Ceravolo, a director of the company involved, gave a London address when setting up the business, but it was a forwarding address with no sign of the pair using it to live in.
The court was told that Ceravolo, who has a conviction for tax evasion, owes €2.9 million (£2.6 million) in unpaid taxes and is facing prosecution in Italy.
It also heard that he had abandoned an attempt to contest the seizure of the cash and that neither he nor the company, Play Life Ltd, of which he was the sole director, had explained the source of the money. Andrew Bird, prosecuting, told the court that the funds “were probably originally from tax evasion in Italy”.
Police discovered one of the accounts was receiving funds from a number of companies in Italy. Funds were then being sent to a second UK company account, set up using false addresses. They concluded that the accounts were being used for “layering”, where transactions across multiple accounts disguise the original source of funds.
Paul Curtis, from the City of London Police’s Financial Investigation Unit, said that“the true intentions of the individuals behind this shell company” had been “to launder millions of pounds, obtained through criminality”.
He added: “Police will make every effort to cut access to money-laundering routes, which is key to defeating organised crime.”
The sums forfeited are £1,723,706.56 in a Lloyds account held in the name of Play Life Ltd and €356,043 held in another company account for the benefit of Ceravolo.