Two underworld criminals were sentenced to a total of 33 years in prison for running a £70 million money laundering conspiracy, including £10 million in Covid bounce-back loans. Artem Terzyan, 38, of Russia, and Deivis Grochiatskij, 44, of Lithuania, even laundered the loans intended to aid businesses in their recovery from the pandemic. Their sentences are thought to be among the longest ever imposed by a British judge for money laundering.
National Crime Agency's Operation
A four-year joint operation by the National Crime Agency and the Metropolitan Police caught them out. The investigation began in October 2017 when investigators observed another guy, Auriel Zylyfi, loading a large bag of cash into an Audi at a money counting establishment in North West London. Another guy, Artur Terziu, was spotted paying out £40,000 to Zylyfi in the underground car park beneath his flat in Hendon, North West London, the following month. Both individuals were arrested and sentenced to one year in prison.
Officers then examined Zylyfi's flat and discovered a book with information on £7 million in money that had been laundered over a four-month period. Over the next seven months, the identical Audi drove across the country, stopping briefly at truck stops and service stations before returning to London. The automobile was often driven to Munning House in East London's Docklands neighborhood, where Terzyan and Grochiatskij shared an apartment.
The robbers had no idea authorities had swooped in and witnessed them transport money from the vehicle inside Munning House. Together with their criminal associates, they were also witnessed creating bank accounts in the names of fictitious firms around the city and deposited tens of thousands of pounds into those accounts at a time.
The money would be transferred from one bogus firm to another in a devilishly complex network of transactions before being paid to accounts in Germany, the Czech Republic, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, and Singapore. They were both detained at Munning House on June 26, 2018, and both of their flats were searched. The detectives seized multiple hand-written books of accounts with Terzyan's fingerprints on them, revealing massive sums of money being laundered.
An encrypted phone, bank cards, and account information for the bogus firms they had set up were also discovered. Grochiatskij's computer was also confiscated from his apartment, which contained information about the bank accounts they both used as well as photos showing their accomplices handling cash in Grochiatskij's living room. Another image showed a large sum of money in a safe, as well as a notepad with the address of a neighboring business unit written on it.
On February 23, 2018, CCTV footage of both men carrying the safe to the flat was discovered, but when it was examined eight months later, the money had already vanished - yet the safe could have contained up to £3 million in cash. A financial investigator's investigation of hundreds of bank accounts they both owned revealed that they laundered £36 million in 2017-18, with £16 million coming from cash deposits.
They were arrested and released on bond, but at that time, they proceeded to falsely claim bounce-back loans for the several bogus firms they had set up. They claimed up to £50,000 in pandemic assistance at a time, totaling £10 million. They continued to launder money in the same manner as previously, and between June 2018 and November 2020, when they were apprehended again, they laundered another £34 million, including the £10 million from bounce back loans.
After a seven-week trial in September of this year, they were both convicted guilty of two charges of money laundering each. Terzyan was sentenced to 17 years in prison and Gorchiatskij to 16 years in prison earlier this month at Kingston Crown Court. The trial's reporting limitations have just recently been relaxed.
Judge Rajeev Shetty warned them they were "undermining the government and financial institutions" by taking advantage of bounce-back loans, adding that "the British public would be stunned and unhappy that part of their hard-earned tax payments was going into the coffers of criminals."
"This was a painstaking and sophisticated investigation in which the team evaluated reams of financial data and transactions," said Andy Tickner of the Organised Crime Partnership. Ultimately, the investigation established that these two had established a sophisticated, large-scale money laundering scheme through which they transferred £70 million in illegal currency out of the UK. They accomplished this by establishing hundreds of phony corporations and utilizing a worldwide network of criminals under their direction."
"On top of that, they stole over £10 million from British taxpayers in what is thought to be one of the greatest bounce-back loan scams since the scheme's inception in 2020. These individuals and their network were critical in allowing other criminals to hide and access their unlawful riches. The termination of this service will have dealt a significant blow to organized crime in the UK and throughout the world."