Edinburgh lawyer’s elaborate money trail to Greece

IN THE basement offices of a characterless office block in Argyll Street lies the evidence trail that convicted Scotland’s most wanted man.

Box stacked upon box, filling one Crown Office room and then spilling into another, is dedicated to Michael Voudouri and his associates.

The case represents an emerging type of criminality and crime-fighting in Scotland.

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Forensic accountants pored over bank statements, credit card statements and false invoices, tracing a criminal enterprise that circumnavigated half the world.

Voudouri was already known to the police and had a previous conviction for VAT fraud, prior to this inquiry.

He became associated with a company called Q-Tech Distribution, which was set up in June 2000 and operated for just under a year, until May 2001. Its sole director was Mohammed Sattar, of Glasgow.

Officially, the company imported computer components, but it became a front for an international tax “carousel” fraud.

The complicated fraud took in three companies, some set up purely for the purpose of tax fraud, others which already existed and were unwittingly used by Q-Tech.

One of the frustrations for the investigators is that there was never enough evidence to launch a criminal prosecution against the people behind Q-Tech Distribution and the carousel fraud.

Instead, they turned to the civil courts, where the evidential requirement lies on balance of probabilities rather than “beyond reasonable doubt”.

The Crown Office’s civil recovery unit seized £1,271,842 from Q-Tech and Sattar in August last year, ten years after the inquiry was launched.

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But the Crown Office still had to prove where the money went next. That was where Voudouri had come in.

Lindsey Miller, head of the Crown Office’s serious and organised crime division Miller said: “Voudouri was facilitating the laundering of the money. As were Housley and Laing, they were convicted for that.”

Lynne Barrie, a senior fiscal responsible for much of the inquiry’s leg-work, added: “He’s pleaded guilty to laundering £11.6m.

“It went to various accounts in Cyprus and Greece, some of which were in his name, most were in other names, but were associates of his.”

Because of the amount of money that he laundered, Voudouri has earned the tag of Scotland’s most wanted man.

But it is also possible Voudouri was just a foot soldier.

Ms Miller said: “Reading between the lines, if he is laundering money on behalf of others, creating complex financial trails in the hope of being able to bring it back into the UK, the ultimate aim would be to pass it back to those who perpetrated criminal acts, which created the property in the first place.”

What is certain is that Voudouri’s know-how and contacts abroad were critical for the elaborate money trail that was designed to wash the dirty money clean.