A DJ and owner of a London nightclub has surrendered music kit bought for more than £214,000 in a NCA civil recovery case that linked the equipment to suspected cyber-enabled frauds.
Officers seized the equipment in 2019 when they executed a search warrant at Fold nightclub in Canning Town – run by Lasha Zhorzholiani – as part of an international investigation into the so-called QQAAZZ organised crime group.
The QQAAZZ group provided bespoke money laundering services to many of the world’s most prolific cyber crime groups – who continue to target the UK with sophisticated malware campaigns causing huge financial losses.
Investigators believe QQAAZZ managed its money laundering operations from London using a combination of shell companies, mule accounts and crypto-currency to mask the origins of funds derived from serious cyber attacks against companies in the UK, the USA and elsewhere.
Enquiries into the nightclub equipment demonstrated that it had been paid for using funds stolen from victim companies and filtered through bank accounts linked to various shell companies.
Earlier this month the NCA brought a civil case to the High Court in which it set out how the equipment represented the proceeds of crime. The claim was served on Zhorzholiani, and a recovery order was made by consent.
Richard Winstanley, from the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said: “Money launderers provide a key enabling service to the most harmful cyber crime groups by allowing them ready access to vast sums of money they have generated through criminal activity.
“NCA investigators are encouraged to think creatively about how they can use legislation to undermine criminal enterprises. In this case, civil recovery powers have allowed us to ensure that avaricious individuals who have benefitted financially through crime do not hold on to their illicit assets.
“This is a perfect example of collaboration between our criminal investigators and the NCA’s civil recovery practitioners to disrupt serious organised criminality and protect the public from harm.
“The NCA’s investigation into the UK arm of the QQAAZZ group continues; with criminal justice outcomes and other alternative disruptions being considered.”
The wider operation into QQAAZZ was coordinated by Europol, involved 16 countries and resulted in 20 individuals being arrested across multiple jurisdictions in Europe.
24 March 2022