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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."

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.

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"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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