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Fraud Squad enters the hidden world of international money launderers who clean millions of pounds stolen from British victims of fraud.
With exclusive access to the Economic Crime Department of the City of London Police, Fraud Squad reveals how organised crime is targeting our hard earned life savings and laundering the stolen millions through front companies, offshore accounts and gold. It includes interviews with victims whose lives have been devastated after being conned out of huge sums in life savings, as well as footage of raids and arrests as the authorities catch up with major players who have got rich ripping them off.
Britain’s major money launderers, as Detective Superintendent David Clark explains, “Have the victims’ money in their possession, they’re controlling it, they’re moving it, they’re cleaning it and effectively they have the victims’ blood on their hands from the minute the money’s paid to the minute it is spent in the luxurious lifestyles that these people tend to keep.”
Fraud Squad trails detectives to Heathrow airport where a high value target, Ian MacDonald, who has laundered over £18 million of British victims’ money, is hauled off an aeroplane. His arrest brings an unexpected prize. Accompanying him is one of the world’s most wanted fraudsters, 44-year-old David Downes.
Downes is the mastermind behind a number of international investment frauds, ruthlessly targeting over 2,000 British victims by pressurising them to buy worthless carbon credits and fake shares in eco-friendly companies.
Detective Inspector James Clancey states: “Downes is one of the significant individuals in Europe for this kind of criminality. He’s been involved in this for a number of years and MacDonald seems to be his money laundering organisation attached to the side of the criminality.”
Detective Constable Claire Armson-Smith reveals to Fraud Squad the devastation Downes and McDonald caused across the UK.
“A number of victims have died. I’ve had elderly vulnerable victims with dementia having to go into homes. I’ve had victims saying they feel suicidal because of their losses. It’s just destroying people’s lives.”
73-year-old retired nurse and midwife, Nelzine Green, lost £64,000, most of her life savings, to the fraud. Nelzine Green tells ‘Fraud Squad’ the impact the fraud has had on her life:
“I felt really awful for a long time. Where I would go to bed and just lie there. You can’t sleep. You’re thinking that this is a lot of money that I’ve just chucked down the drain. What annoys is I’ve got two grandchildren. They’re very bright children. Instead of giving my money to men like that I could have left it to my grandchildren.”
68-year-old Dr Greenhalgh has been forced out of retirement and may have to sell his home of 18 years after being conned out of £250,000. He was targeted at a particularly vulnerable time when his wife was undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
Dr Greenhalgh tells Fraud Squad:
“What really puzzles me is the psychology of these people. These are highly intelligent people. The whole thing was so cleverly done. They’re clever enough to run decent businesses, to make money honestly. Why do they have to do this? Why do they have to destroy people’s lives?”
Commander Steve Head, in charge of the Economic Crime Department, explains how by strategically targeting Britain’s major launderers, the City of London Police aim to take the profit out of fraud:
“We are coming after those people who support, enable, who facilitate fraud, no matter where they are. No matter how remote they may think they are from the front line of the criminality, we are coming after them.”
Fraud Squad shows the luxurious lifestyle Downes and MacDonald enjoyed on their stolen millions. During a search of Ian MacDonald’s Spanish villa, detectives uncover a framed cashier’s cheque for US$1 million.
Detective Constable Claire Armson-Smith states: “It’s a trophy for his success in defrauding hundreds, maybe thousands of UK investors. The victims are still suffering. I feel incredibly sad for them and the impact that this has had on their lives. It’s all as a result of the actions of two particularly greedy, selfish individuals. We know they travelled the world. Travelled business class. They had nice cars. Jaguars. Porsches. Nice clothes. Rolex watches.”
Fraud Squad is also with detectives as they track down the ringleader of a British Pakistani gang, Mohammed Younas, who stole £7.8 million from Britain’s banks in a sophisticated mortgage fraud. His gang then laundered the money out of Britain through hundreds of front companies, gold and expensive jewellery in just 12 weeks.
Detective Chief Inspector Perry Stokes states: “This is one of the most significant mortgage frauds that we’ve dealt with in the last five years. They set out to defraud the banks by creating false identities, applying for 33 false mortgages with the major banks. But the real scam was that there was no property.”
Fraud Squad reveals the audacious method the gang used to perpetuate their fraud. They targeted a respectable firm of solicitors, specializing in arranging mortgages, which had a high credit rating with Britain’s major banks. They took over the company and utilized its reputation to access funds quickly.
Detective Sergeant Simon Russen states: “What we are seeing is a new sort of criminal coming out. Far more involved in complex financial crime rather than old-fashioned crime, like burglaries and robberies.”
The mastermind of the fraud, Mohammed Younas, used nine different identities to evade capture for two years. Detectives feared Younas had fled to Pakistan but he stepped out of the shadows when he applied for yet another driving license with the DVLA. This gave detectives his new address in a quiet suburb of South Croydon.
During the search of Mohammed Younas’s home, detectives discover a treasure trove of gold and evidence of his multiple identities. A £13,000 Rolex, bought in the name of the alias he used to commit the £7.8 million fraud, is the most crucial evidence.
Detective Chief Inspector Perry Stokes: “It just goes to show the arrogance of these fraudsters. They think they’ve got away with it. He purchased a high value watch for 13 thousand pounds. His greed in purchasing the Rolex is ultimately going to be his downfall because that’s direct evidence linking him to the offence. On this occasion I’m glad he bought the Rolex.”
Mohammed Younas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. He received a seven year sentence.
In a landmark case for the City of London Police, David Downes was the first person to be convicted of a carbon credit fraud in the UK. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud. He offered to give £3.9 million back to the victims.
His money launderer, Ian MacDonald, chose to be judged by a jury and after 12 weeks was found guilty of money laundering but acquitted of fraud.
So far, detectives from the City of London Police have recovered just under £5 million from MacDonald and Downes. Money that will be used by the courts to compensate their victims.
Detective Inspector James Clancey explains to ‘Fraud Squad’ the importance of targeting Britain’s money launderers, who operate at the highest level of organized crime.
“The professional ones, the top level ones, accept the likelihood of a custodial sentence if they get caught. What they don’t accept is losing all their money. So if you take their money away, there’s no incentive for them to do their activity.”
Fraud Squad is part of a returning documentary series made by Wild Pictures, the producers of the acclaimed ITV series ‘HMP Aylesbury’, ‘Strangeways’ and ‘The Zoo’. The programme is produced and directed by Will West and Matt Haan. The Executive Producers are Paul Hamann and Tom Anstiss.