A ‘kid’ who arrived in Britain paid almost £400,000 in rent upfront through an agency.
The money paid upfront by the student was for a penthouse in Knightsbridge.
The case points up the responsibilities that letting agents may or may not have under anti-money laundering rules, and what questions they should ask.
Vlad Luca Filat, now 22, came to London in 2016.
This was one year after his father Vladmir Filat, the former prime minister of Moldova, was arrested over his part in the “theft of the century”.
The theft, for which Filat senior is now serving a nine-year prison sentence, involved $1bn stolen from three Moldovan banks and laundered through Latvia’s financial system.
The money was equivalent to 12.5% of Moldova’s GDP, bringing the country’s financial system to its knees, and forcing a bail-out of the country’s banks.
Filat Junior has now been ordered to hand over nearly £500,000 following a corruption investigation by the National Crime Agency.
As well as his huge payment of rent upfront, he also spent £200,000 on a Bentley.
His accounts were frozen last May, and on Tuesday this week, at the City of London Magistrates Court, district judge Michael Snow granted orders requiring £466,322 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.”
An anti-corruption campaigner has now called for the National Crime Agency to ask the letting agency involved what checks were made on “this suspicious spender”.
Ava Lee, of Global Witness, said: “This kid is the son of a former prime minister imprisoned for an abuse of power relating to a billion-dollar scandal, driving to uni in a Bentley, [and] renting out a penthouse that costs more each day than most students pay a month.”
She may have a point – but the unnamed agent appears to have done nothing wrong.
Under AML regulations letting agents in 2016 did not have the same due diligence obligations as estate agents.
And indeed, they still do not.
The latest EU AML directive failed to bring letting agents into its scope.
This will change, but only in a limited fashion, and not until next year (and that’s before any Brexit fall-out is brought into the equation).
However, as things stand, the AML regime will be extended on January 10 next year to situations where rent is over €10,000 per month.
The industry has long argued that estate agents – who have hefty AML responsibilities – do not handle money, whereas letting agents do.
However, as EYE has reported, banks may insist on agents carrying out some checks as part of banks’ own responsibilities.