By Tim Lister, Radina Gigova and Nina dos Santos, CNN
A wealthy Russian businessman has been arrested as part of a “major operation” on suspicion of multiple offenses, the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency said in a statement Saturday.
The 58-year-old man was arrested Thursday at his “multi-million-pound residence in London by officers from the NCA’s Combatting Kleptocracy Cell” on suspicion of committing offenses including money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the Home Office — the UK government department for immigration and passports — and conspiracy to commit perjury, the agency said.
A 35-year-old man, employed at the premises, was also arrested “nearby” on suspicion of money laundering and obstruction of an officer “after he was seen leaving the address with a bag found to contain thousands of pounds in cash,” according to the statement.
A third man, aged 39, who the agency said is the former boyfriend of the businessman’s current partner, was arrested at his home in Pimlico, London, for offenses including money laundering and conspiracy to defraud, according to the statement.
A person close to the investigation has given CNN more detail on two of the men arrested, saying the 39-year-old man was a national of Russia, Israel, and the UK and the 35-year-old man was a Polish national. The source told CNN the bank notes the 35-year-old was carrying have not yet been counted but were suspected to be in the tens of thousands and in British currency.
The three individuals have been interviewed by authorities and have been released on bail, according to the statement.
The Russian Embassy in London has sent a note to British authorities regarding the detention of a Russian citizen, according to a statement from the embassy made available to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
“The Russian Embassy in London has asked the British authorities for clarification in connection with the information from the National Crime Agency about the alleged detention of a Russian citizen in London,” reads the note, according to RIA Novosti.
“The NCA’s Combatting Kleptocracy Cell, only established this year, is having significant success investigating potential criminal activity by oligarchs, the professional service providers that support and enable them and those linked to the Russian regime,” said the agency’s director general Graeme Biggar.
“We will continue to use all the powers and tactics available to us to disrupt this threat,” he added.
More than 50 officers were involved in the operation at the businessman’s London property, the statement said. “A number of digital devices and a significant quantity of cash was recovered following extensive searches by NCA investigators,” according to the statement.
So far, the agency says it has secured nearly 100 disruptions “against Putin-linked elites and their enablers” and has taken direct action against “a significant number of elites who impact directly on the UK.”
The agency is also targeting “less conventional routes used to disguise movements of significant wealth, such as high value asset sales via auction houses,” according to the statement.
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