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When the difference between income and assets doesn’t add up

Service Area: Criminal and Regulatory

Member: Roger Isaacs

A couple who led an extravagant lifestyle, with cash in the bank and three expensive Patek Philippe watches in their safe, have been arrested after they appeared to have a combined income of no more than £49,000.

This case has revealed that the couple had assets worth more than £1 million, but only declared income of less than £50,000, which led forensic investigators from the National Crime Agency (NCA) to dig deeper into their finances.

Through its investigations the NCA said it had recovered £797,421 from the couple’s bank accounts, three Patek Philippe watches valued at £199,000 and a private registration plate worth £15,000.

The NCA said that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Ayodele Oluseye Odewale (also known as Ayodele Balogun), 42, and his partner of 21 years Sara Bharat Yadav, 40, had carried out a series of dishonest acts between 1998 and 2016.

According to prosecutors, during this period the couple had targeted people living in wealthy areas, researching their details through public records and fraudulently applying for credit cards and replacement debit cards in their names, which were used to withdraw cash and pay for expensive watches.

These watches were then traded and sold, with the proceeds being laundered through bank accounts belonging to the couple.

The couple also bought properties in London and Liverpool, which were subsequently sold in what the NCA believed was an attempt to further launder the proceeds of their criminal activities.

The NCA’s civil recovery investigators started the investigation in December 2016, and, as forensic investigators are trained to do, analysed 12,000 financial transactions between 2010 and 2016.

The couple has now been ordered to hand over £1,011,431 at the High Court under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The investigators were praised by the judge for their “detailed, cogent, and helpful” evidence.

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “This is another example of civil recovery powers being used by the NCA rather than a prosecution. It is notable that neither of the Defendants had been convicted of any crime.

The advantage of civil recovery litigation is that the standard of proof is lower, being the balance of probabilities rather than having to prove guild beyond reasonable doubt. Furthermore, if successful, these types of claim can be self-funding which is a huge incentive for prosecution authorities with tight constraints on their budgets .

Similarly, it is a little known fact that victims of crime have two alternative routes to recover assets stolen by fraudsters. The first is simply to sue using that standard civil remedies and the second is to seek a Compensation Order using the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act that the NCA used in this case ”

Author: Roger Isaacs

17 July 2020

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