DJ ordered to give up £214k of equipment linked to cyber fraud

FOLD nightclub at Gillian House, Canning Town. Picture: Ken Mears

FOLD nightclub at Gillian House, Canning Town - Credit: Ken Mears

A DJ and Canning Town nightclub owner has surrendered £214,000 worth of music equipment after it was linked to suspected cyber frauds.

National Crime Agency (NCA) officers seized the specialist audio-visual gear in a 2019 raid at Fold nightclub - being run by Lasha Zhorzholiani - as part of an international investigation into the QQAAZZ organised crime group.

Earlier this month, the NCA brought a civil recovery case to the High Court in which it set out how the equipment was linked to the proceeds of crime.

The claim was served on Zhorzholiani and a recovery order was made by consent, the law enforcement agency said.

Unlike criminal confiscation, civil recovery proceedings do not depend on the owner having an existing conviction.

The right of civil recovery is determined on the balance of probabilities, a lower threshold than the beyond all reasonable doubt criteria applicable to criminal matters.

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.

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"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."

Investigators say QQAAZZ provided bespoke money laundering services to many of the world’s most prolific cyber crime groups.

It's believed the group managed its operations from London using a combination of shell companies, mule accounts and crypto-currency to mask the origins of funds gained from cyber attacks against companies in the UK, USA and elsewhere.

NCA says enquiries into the Fold 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.

The NCA probe into the UK arm of QQAAZZ is continuing.

The wider investigation into the group was coordinated by Europol, involved 16 countries and resulted in 20 people being arrested across Europe.