Eight East London members of a ten-strong criminal gang who laundered £70m including exploiting government financial help during Covid have now been sentenced.

The final three members of the Docklands-based group were sentenced on March 10, 
after their criminal enterprise was taken out following a five-year investigation by the Organised Crime Partnership (OCP) – a joint National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police Service unit.

Aurimas Bielskis, 41, of Rope Terrace, Vitalijs Slapkins-Slapkovs, 34, of Basin Approach and Nedas Kiviliauskas, 34, of Northamptonshire, were handed suspended sentences at Kingston Crown Court on Friday and ordered to do community service.

The gang was headed up by Artem Terzyan, 39, of Eastern Quay, Docklands, and neighbour Deivis Grochkiaska, 45, of Wesley Avenue, who set up bank accounts linked to shell companies to launder the money through, investigators discovered.

Money would be sent from one shell company to another in a complex web of transfers, before it was sent out to international accounts held in countries including Germany, Czech Republic, U.A.E, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

The two men also laundered £10m they had generated by claiming fraudulent government Bounce Back Loans (BBLs) for the various shell companies they had set up.

OCP investigators also identified that the group traded in the sale and purchase of luxury pre-owned watches as another way to launder illicit cash.

Andy Tickner, from the OCP, said: “This was a painstaking and complex investigation in which the team analysed reams of financial data and transactions, as well as conducting hundreds of hours of surveillance.

“Ultimately the case proved that Terzyan and Grochiatskij had built a sophisticated, 
large-scale money laundering system which saw them transfer £70m worth of criminal cash out of the UK.

“We were also able to build a picture around the structure of the network, as well as members’ individual roles in setting up bogus companies and moving money, both physically between bank accounts.

“This network played a vital role in enabling other criminals to conceal and access their illicit earnings. 

"The removal of this service will have been a massive blow to organised criminals in the UK and globally.”

East London Advertiser: Hugging cash in Deivis Grochiatskij's Dockland's flatHugging cash in Deivis Grochiatskij's Dockland's flat (Image: NCA)

The OCP’s investigation began in October 2017 when surveillance officers watched a handover in North West London, in which a man placed a large bag of cash in an Audi.

Over the next eight months the same Audi travelled extensively around the UK to collect cash from other criminals before returning to Munnings House in Docklands where Terzyan and Grochkiaska lived and ran their criminal operation.

Alexandrs Vohmjanins, 50, of Hermit Road, was designated driver of the Audi and the network's main cash courier.

In one incident, officers watched as he picked up money in Manchester from Liverpudlian Michael Simpson, 37, who was the cash courier for a different crime group based in northern England.

Terzyan and Grochkiaska were seen, along with other members of their criminal network, including Grochkiaska’s wife, Renata, 42, opening accounts in banks across London, then depositing tens of thousands of pounds into them at a time.

The three were arrested in June 2018, along with driver Vohmjanins and friend Anastasia Malii, 31. The rest of the network were detained later that year.

East London Advertiser: Deivis Grochiatskij depositing cash in a bank as part of a major criminal laundering operationDeivis Grochiatskij depositing cash in a bank as part of a major criminal laundering operation (Image: NCA)

A financial investigator analysed hundreds of bank accounts controlled by Terzyan and Grochkiaska and discovered that the men had laundered a minimum of £36m in 2017-2018, with £16m of that coming from cash deposits.

While on bail, Terzyan and Grochkiaska exploited the Government’s Covid-19 support scheme by claiming fraudulent Bounce Back Loans (BBL) for the various shell companies up to £50,000 a time.

In December 2021 Terzyan was sentenced to 17 years in prison and Grochkiaska to 16 years.

Driver Vohmjanins was jailed for four years while the others received sentences of two years suspended for two years.

Confiscation proceedings against all members are in process, the NCA added.