A Nigerian businessman has become the thirteenth person to be convicted in an international money laundering operation which targeted organisations such as the NHS in Lincolnshire.
Walter Wagbatsoma, 47, was jailed for three-and-a-half years at Leicester Crown Court on January 17 after a Lincolnshire Police investigation revealed that over £12 million had been defrauded from public bodies such as hospital trusts, housing associations and councils across the UK.
The oil and gas businessman was identified by Lincolnshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit under Operation Tarlac, and was 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.
Fraudulently obtained funds in the UK were laundered through an account in Dubai under the control of a co-conspirator Oluwatoyin Allison, who was convicted in his absence at an earlier trial in April 2017 and sentenced to seven years in prison.
The funds were then transferred to Wagbatsoma’s account in the UK.
This is the third criminal trial for this operation and follows the conviction of 12 other defendants in the investigation which began with a complaint of fraud from Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust in September 2011, in which £1.28 million was fraudulently obtained by the gang.
Subsequently, a further 20 linked offences was identified resulting in losses of £12.6 million.
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.”
Wagbatsoma 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 in jail in January last year.
He has also been disqualified from being a company director for six years.
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.
“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.”