Following a trial at Leicester Crown Court a thirteenth defendant has been convicted of conspiracy to launder money in an international fraud and money laundering investigation.
Detectives of the Lincolnshire Police Economic Crime Unit carried out the investigation under Operation Tarlac, in which over £12m was defrauded from public bodies including Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation NHS Trust, other hospital trusts, housing associations and councils around the UK.
Lincolnshire Police explain Walter Wagbatsoma, 47, was originally detained on a European Arrest Warrant in June 2016 while travelling through Germany. He was extradited soon afterwards and charged with conspiring with others to launder the proceeds of fraud through his business interests in the UK.
The Nigerian businessman was yesterday (Wednesday) sentenced to three years and six months imprisonment for his part in the crime, he was also disqualified from being a company director for six years.
In a statement, the force says fraudulently obtained funds in the UK were laundered through an account in Dubai under the control of a co-conspirator Oluwatoyin Allison, a UK national who was convicted in his absence at an earlier trial in April 2017 and sentenced to seven years imprisonment. The funds were then transferred to Wagbatsoma’s account in the UK.
Wagbatsoma, an oil and gas businessman, was on trial in Nigeria at the time of his arrest for his part in a £1.9 billion oil subsidy fraud for which he was convicted and sentenced in his absence to 10-years imprisonment in January last year.
This is the third criminal trial for this operation and follows the successful conviction of 12 other defendants in the investigation which began with a complaint of fraud from Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust in September 2011, in which £1.28m was fraudulently obtained by the gang. Subsequently, a further 20 linked offences was identified resulting in losses of £12.6m.
After a four-year investigation, those convicted have received prison sentences in excess of 50-years and proceedings are underway to recover the gains of the conspiracy under the Proceeds of Crime Act. This is to make sure that victims can in some way be recompensed for what the Judge described as a “sophisticated and widespread fraud in its conception and execution.”
Deputy Chief Constable Craig Naylor said: “For a small force, this investigation shows that officers in our Economic Crime department have shown real endeavour and determination in investigating what is a huge money laundering and fraud offence.
“Operation Tarlac has now seen 13 individuals given lengthy prison sentences for their part in an international offence, which has had a national impact on public bodies in the UK. As a force, we have achieved a significant impact against organised crime in this investigation and this shows the hard work by our officers.
“Proceedings are now underway to recover a large amount of money, and I want to personally thank partners for their support and co-operation with us in this investigation and congratulate my officers and staff on a job well done.”