The public authority in charge of building the infrastructure for the Olympics was conned out of £2.3 million by fraudsters who pretended to represent one of its key contractors.
Six men and two women appeared in the dock yesterday charged with money laundering the stolen millions by filtering it through different accounts, taking it out in cash or trying to transfer it abroad, “muddying the waters” in an attempt to end the banking paper trail.
Southwark Crown Court heard that the original con was “simple and straightforward invoice fraud”. A man using the false name Anthony Webb wrote to the Olympic Delivery Authority, claiming to represent the construction giant Skanska, and informing them that the company bank account had been changed. The ODA promptly transferred £2.3 million it owed into the bogus account on 27 May 2010.
James Dawes, prosecuting, explained that this was all part of a sophisticated plan - using bogus identities, companies, bank accounts and email addresses – to steal £6 million over a matter of days. Using different names, the fraudsters targeted Network Rail, Dorset County Council and two building firms with the same ploy. But their plan was foiled within days and only the transfer from the ODA and £86,645 from one of Skanska's suppliers ever went through.
A plan to defraud the council – which is responsible for the Olympic village in Weymouth - of more than £1.3 million was averted by a “sharp-eyed employee”.
“Although the plan was to steal £6 million, they in fact only stole about £2.4 million because some of the companies, the authority and the council became alert to the fraud at a reasonably early stage. They were able to claw back some of the money,” said Mr Dawes, explaining that accounts were frozen as soon as the crime was flagged up.
Mr Dawes said the bank account into which the ODA transferred money owed to Skanska was in fact in the name of AK Legal Solutions, owned by a man called Ansumara Kamara, who used a variety of false names, was arrested two days later and had appeared in another trial.
He explained to the jury that the smartly dressed defendants had been accomplices who had helped in one way or another to try and hide the stolen money quickly.. The plan was to transfer £2 million to Nigeria before returning it to buy property, using a bogus firm of solicitors to vouch for the deposit.
“This case relates to what they tried to do with the £2 million. It involved taking it out in cash and to send the money out of the country to Nigeria where the trail would be effectively broken,” said the barrister, adding: “It may be suggested that Kamara was a one man band, a one man crime way. You may think otherwise.”
Nigerian-born Shamsidden Owo, 75, of East London, and his son Abayomi Olowo, 48, of Harrow, both deny four counts of money laundering while Ayodele Odukoya, 42, of Romford and Ms Shakeela Ayub, 28, of Leeds, have pleaded not guilty to two counts each. Nadeem Khan, 38, of Slough, Ms Mbinty Kargbo, 26, a Dutch national living in London, Sanjeev Kumar, 30, of Bilston, West Midlands, and Sakiru Adewale, 57, all deny a single count.