Investigators found thousands of pounds passing through the couple's bank accounts. (Representational)London:
More than 1 million pounds worth of assets have been recovered by the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) following a civil recovery investigation into a Nigerian fraudster and his long-term British Indian partner, who both led extravagant lifestyles despite their combined declared annual income not exceeding 49,000 pounds.
Ayodele Oluseye Odewale, also known as Ayodele Balogun, 42, and his partner of 21 years - 40-year-old Londoner Sara Bharat Yadav, were ordered to hand 1,011,431 pounds to the NCA at the High Court under the UK Proceeds of Crime Act this week.
"Ayodele Oluseye Odewale and Sara Bharat Yadav had extravagant lifestyles funded from stealing the identities of honest, law abiding citizens. We have recovered their assets so they see no benefit from their unlawful activity," said Andy Lewis, head of Asset Denial at the NCA.
"We are pleased our commitment to this investigation has paid off, having worked closely with partners including the Metropolitan Police and the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit. We will continue our work to identify those linked to economic crime, and take away their illicit assets," he said.
NCA investigators found that the couple had hundreds of thousands of pounds passing through their bank accounts annually, despite Ayodele Oluseye Odewale not having had any legitimate employment earnings since his release from prison in 2005, and far in excess of Sara Bharat Yadav's managerial salary.
According to the NCA, Ayodele Oluseye Odewale is a convicted fraudster with numerous dishonesty offences between 1998 and 2016 and made millions from his scams.
He typically targeted people living in wealthy areas, researching their details through public records and fraudulently applying for credit cards in their names, which he used to withdraw cash.
Sara Bharat Yadav, an operations manager at Imperial College London, and Ayodele Oluseye Odewale also bought properties in London and Liverpool respectively, with significant deposits involved on each.
These properties were subsequently sold in what the NCA believed was an attempt to launder the proceeds of Ayodele Oluseye Odewale's criminal activities.
In her judgment, Justice Maura McGowan found the NCA's evidence to be "detailed, cogent, and helpful".
The UK court heard how the couple sent their three children to a private school, which costs 37,000 pounds per year, and also enjoyed frequent luxury holidays in India, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Cape Verde and Turkey.
The NCA said it went on to recover 797,431 pounds from the couple''s bank accounts, three branded Patek Philippe watches valued at 199,000, pounds and a private car registration plate worth 15,000 pounds.
Ben Russell, Deputy Director of the National Economic Crime Centre, said: "Fraud causes real harm to people across the UK and we are determined to use all our powers, including civil recovery, to disrupt criminals and take money and assets out of their hands.
"The National Economic Crime Centre has a unique role in coordinating the response to economic crime, bringing together the full force of our partners from across the public and private sector."
The High Court ordered on Tuesday that one of the watches and 140,759, pounds which could be traced back to two specific frauds, be handed to NatWest Bank to replace money used to compensate two of their customers.
Ayodele Oluseye Odewale is also believed to have impersonated some of his victims in phone calls to their banks, ordered and intercepted replacement debit cards, which he then used to purchase high-value items such as watches.
These watches were then traded and sold with the proceeds being laundered through bank accounts belonging to Ayodele Oluseye Odewale and Sara Bharat Yadav.
Even when Ayodele Oluseye Odewale fled the UK in 2016, the couple continued to enjoy an extravagant lifestyle. The rent on Sara Bharat Yadav's London home alone is nearly 42,000 pounds per year - more than her annual income.
In the last three years they have owned expensive cars including a Porsche Carrera, two Mercedes, and Sara Bharat Yadav currently drives an Audi RS4 which when new is worth around 60,000 pounds.
Sara Bharat Yadav, who remained in the UK when Ayodele Oluseye Odewale left for Nigeria, was also found by Justice McGowan to have knowingly benefited from assets gained through unlawful conduct.
The judge stated that Sara Bharat Yadav "dishonestly chose to turn a blind eye to the illegitimacy of those funds" and enjoyed the luxuries it provided noting, for example, the gold Rolex she wore to the hearing.
NCA investigators described one of Ayodele Oluseye Odewale's explanations that he made "hundreds of thousands of pounds" to fund his lifestyle at betting shop fixed odd terminals as "inherently unlikely".
Ayodele Oluseye Odewale gave evidence to the High Court via video from Nigeria, as he is subject to a deportation order and cannot return to the UK. The judge noted he showed "little concern for the victims of the fraud" and offered "bare (often angry) denials" to questions put to him by the NCA's barrister.