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Christie’s tip off leads to conviction of global money launderer

[LONDON] A tip from Christie's auction house led to the conviction of a London man who British authorities described as a "go-to money launderer for fraudsters all around the world."

Kazeem Akinwale was found guilty of fraud and possessing criminal property after he tried to fool a client of the auction house, the UK's National Crime Agency said Monday in an emailed statement. The 43-year-old controlled bank accounts that processed more than 6 million pounds (S$10.6 million) and took commissions of about 73,000 pounds, the agency said.

In March 2016, authorities received a tip from Christie's that hackers had tried to imitate an employee's email address to divert a customer's payment. The account was traced to Akinwale's east London home a month later, where he was arrested.

"Akinwale was a key player for organized criminals the world over," Jamie Horncastle, an NCA officer, said in a press release. "Every serious and organized crime group relies on cash flow, so taking Akinwale out of action will disrupt very many criminal networks."

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A laptop and two cellphones containing references to the laundering of fraudulent cash were seized from the home of Akinwale, who also used the alias Ola Gapiano, according to the NCA.

"Christie's does not tolerate the use of our business for illegal activity of any kind and we have in place robust anti-money laundering and anti-fraud measures," Emily Burke, a spokeswoman for Christie's, said by email.

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