A court in Britain has ordered the son of former Prime Minister Vladimir Filat to hand over $650,000 following an investigation by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA).
Luca Filat, who has prepaid $500,000 in rent for a penthouse in West London, obtained his wealth “from illegal activity by his father,” the NCA said in a statement on February 7.
Vladimir Filat is serving a nine-year prison sentence in Moldova after his conviction in June 2016 for his role in the disappearance of $1 billion from Moldovan banks while heading the government between 2009 and 2013.
The missing money was equivalent to nearly 10 percent of the country's entire GDP.
Luca Filat, 22, came under scrutiny because he had spent significant sums of money on luxury goods and services, including a $259,000 Bentley, since moving to the British capital in July 2016 to begin his studies, the NCA said.
With “no registered income” in Britain, the agency said, bank records showed that his three accounts were "funded by large deposits from overseas companies, mainly based in Turkey and the Cayman Islands.”
The accounts were frozen in May 2018 as NCA investigators probed where the funds came from.
And on February 7, a court in London granted forfeiture orders on the frozen accounts, under provisions of a new law designed to crack down on money laundering.
"I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the cash was derived from his father's criminal conduct in Moldova," Judge Michael Snow said.
A British-based anticorruption nongovernmental organization is now calling on the NCA to investigate the entities that received payments from Luca Filat.
"The National Crime Agency should now be asking the bank, the university, the estate agent, and the car dealer what checks they made on this suspicious spender and his Cayman Island companies," Global Witness's Ava Lee said.
Bank-account freezing orders were introduced in Britain in the Criminal Act 2017, along with unexplained wealth orders (UWO).
Under a UWO, the NCA can apply for a court to seize property when a suspected corrupt foreign official, or their family, cannot identify a legitimate source of the funds used for buying it.
The NCA last year secured Britain’s first-ever UWO to target the wealth of Azerbaijani national Zamira Hajiyeva.
Hajiyeva is now fighting an extradition request from Azerbaijan, where she faces two charges of embezzlement.
Her husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Azerbaijan after being found guilty of fraud and embezzlement, charges he denied.
With reporting by AFP, Bloomberg.com, and The Guardian
NOTE: This article has been amended to correct the amount that British authorities have seized from Luca Filat.