Laundering suspect was “criss-crossing Europe”

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A Ukrainian woman, arrested last week after she tried to stage a theft of €420,000, prompting the police to uncover a money laundering ring, had been “criss-crossing” across Europe, a law enforcement official said Tuesday.

Police spokesperson Christos Andreou told CyBC radio that the authorities had been aware of the 31-year-old suspect’s movements, prior to her arriving in Cyprus from another EU country, and that “at some stage she would have been arrested” on money laundering charges.

Officials estimate that during her 15 trips, she had smuggled in about €6 mln over six months, which she initially claimed had been declared to customs officials.

However, the daylight robbery last Friday in the Limassol suburb of Yermasoyia, an area with a high concentration of Russian and Ukrainian residents, raised suspicions among police who were investigating her ‘bag grab’ allegation, a few hours after she had arrived from overseas.

She claimed that she had a pouch with €420,000 in cash and that two hooded thieves on a motorcycle grabbed her bag and fled.

Police sources suggested that perhaps she staged the theft with other accomplices in order to save face with the person who entrusted her with that money to be transported to Cyprus.

The Nicosia District Court issued a five-day remand on Saturday, pending further investigation, and the suspect faces charges of offenses involving participation in a criminal organisation, participation in and profiting from crimes, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit a felony.

According to a Phileleftheros report, the suspect was not cooperating with the authorities.

She claimed that she gave the moneys she brought to Cyprus to a friend of hers, without providing further explanation.

Repeated travels

The investigation so far has revealed that from August 2023 to March 2024, she repeatedly traveled by air to Cyprus as a visitor, declaring to the customs authorities the transfer of large sums of money, which she had in her possession upon arrival at Larnaca and Paphos airports.

Last Friday, after she arrived in Limassol by taxi, she was dropped off at a well-known cafe in Limassol, while she claims she intended to invest the money to buy an apartment in Limassol.

As soon as she got out of the taxi, she was approached by two people riding a large motorcycle. They grabbed her bag and fled.

Further investigations are expected to involve Europol and Interpol. It is expected that a court order will be requested for the disclosure of bank information, as well as about the suspect’s financial activities in Cyprus.

Following public criticism that the laundering and illicit import of funds took place under the noses of the local authorities, the Customs Department said that any amount arriving from the EU or third countries, must be declared and the original source proven if the amount is more than €10,000.

Any suspicious transaction is referred to the anti-money laundering unit MOKAS, while for any amount of over €100,000 is reported directly to the police.