A London student who paid £390,000 up front in rent for a Knightsbridge penthouse must hand over nearly half a million pounds, following an investigation by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).
Freezing orders for three HSBC accounts held by 22-year-old Vlad Luca Filat were granted in May 2018 – under new forfeiture provisions introduced by the Criminal Finances Act 2017 – after NCA financial investigators suspected the funds derived from illegal activity by his father, Vladimir Filat, the ex-Prime Minister of Moldova.
The ex-PM is currently serving a nine year prison sentence after he was convicted in June 2016 for his part in the disappearance of $1billion (£646m) from three Moldovan banks. The missing money is equivalent to an eighth of the ex-Soviet republic’s entire GDP.
With no registered income in the UK, HSBC records showed that the Vlad Luca’s accounts and living expenses were funded by large deposits from overseas companies, mainly based in Turkey and the Cayman Islands. Multiple cash deposits were also identified across the UK branch network, with £98,100 paid in over one three-day period.
After moving to London in July 2016 to begin his studies, Vlad Luca led an extravagant lifestyle, spending significant sums of money on luxury goods and services, including a £200,000 Bentley ‘Bentayga’ bought from a Mayfair dealership.
At City of London Magistrates Court, District Judge Michael Snow granted forfeiture orders on Vlad Luca’s three frozen accounts, requiring £466,321.72 to be forfeited.
The Judge said: “I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the cash was derived from his father’s criminal conduct in Moldova.”
The NCA also successfully applied for its costs in the sum of £4,079.
Rob MacArthur, from the NCA’s International Corruption Unit, said: “Account Freezing Orders are a valuable tool in the fight against illicit finance in the UK. Where we suspect money in an account is the proceeds of crime, we can apply to the court to freeze and then forfeit the sums.
“In this case, Vlad Luca Filat was unable to demonstrate a legitimate source for the money and the court determined it to be recoverable.”