First image available featuring Detective Superintendent Nick Downing here
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Detectives investigating hire car companies suspected of being set up to launder money and supply criminals with incorrectly insured cars to help them evade detection, have made 14 arrests and seized 19 cars worth almost £1 million.
The MPS Central Criminal Finances Team gathered intelligence on a number of organised crime groups (OCGs) believed to be using proceeds of crime to buy status cars, which they then hire out to other criminals.
These OCGs are suspected of exploiting weaknesses in insurance regulation by buying fleet insurance - cover for company cars which is much cheaper than hire insurance and means that no one person is associated with the car. This means the vehicle is much less likely to be stopped than a stolen or uninsured vehicle, or one registered to a person wanted by police.
The OCGs then support the criminals if they are questioned about the policy by pretending that the person in question is their employee.
This new method also means that other road users involved in a collision with such vehicles are unlikely to receive compensation, as the insurance is not fit for purpose.
Intelligence suggests these individuals are also laundering hundreds of thousands of pounds by claiming to take cash payments for hire when really money is proceeds from other crime.
Around £25,000 in cash has so far been seized during warrants carried out at 13 residential addresses and five businesses addresses across London today (3 December). The first warrant was executed at 0430hours.
Four specific car hire companies were targeted and fourteen people were arrested for money laundering, insurance fraud, possession of cocaine and immigration offences in Hounslow, Barking, Lambeth and Essex.
A further six arrests were made during a traffic operation which ran across London for seven days, starting on Monday 25 November. Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology was used to stop cars flagged as being associated with a number of car hire companies under investigation. The arrests were for drug offences, drink driving, breach of ASBO and fraud.
A total of 19 cars worth around £950,000 as new were seized for being incorrectly insured.
Warrants are ongoing today and more are planned as detectives take action against other car hire companies under their spotlight.
Throughout the operation, the MPS has worked in partnership with the insurance industry, including the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) who operate as a central hub for industry data and analysis, helping identify and prevent organised insurance fraud.
Detective Superintendent Nick Downing, leading the Central Criminal Finances Team, said: "These criminals are essentially using car hire firms to clean their dirty cash while simultaneously helping other criminals evade detection as they travel across London. They are doing this by defrauding insurance companies and, in doing so, they are also putting other road users at risk.
"We are working in partnership with the insurance industry to close in on these groups and ultimately stop the supply of these cars for use in crime and as a status symbol. We will be seizing criminals’ assets and hope to reduce the risk presented to other road users by incorrectly insured cars being on the road.
"This is just the start of this operation. As we continue to investigate other car hire firms, I encourage anyone with information about this type of crime to report it."
Anyone with information about money laundering or insurance fraud through car hire firms is urged to contact Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555 111.
Ben Fletcher, Director of the IFB, said: “This is another great example of success through collaboration and I’m really proud of the support the IFB was able to give to the Metropolitan Police Service over the last few months. Insurance fraud isn’t just an anti-social crime, we know from our operational experience that it’s used to fund wider criminal activity, as this operation clearly illustrates. That is why we, the IFB, will continue to find ways to use our expertise, our resources and our contacts to support law enforcement agencies in bringing fraudsters to justice.”