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EXCLUSIVE: NCA seeks to confiscate £1.6m Frank Auerbach painting from fugitive money launderer on run for a year

A £1.6 million pound painting is set to be at the centre of a court case as investigators seek to confiscate it from a fugitive money launderer.

The work by top artist Frank Auerbach was found by the National Crime Agency (NCA) during investigations into Lenn Mayhew-Lewis, (above with gold bars) a money launderer for organised crooks.

The NCA is due to argue at Westminster Magistrates' Court for the forfeiture of the piece entitled Albert Street 2009 and also some gold also seized from him under the listed assets provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Auerbach, 92, (below) currently has works on display in London's Tate and Courtauld galleries and a cache of paintings showing more than 50 years of his work went on display at the historic Palazzo da Mosto, in Venice from Thursday<April18> until June 28.

Mr Auerbach is not implicated in anything criminal and it is not known how Mayhew-Lewis came to have the painting.

He was was born in Berlin, but his parents sent him to Britain aged seven in 1939 to escape Nazi persecution.

Mr Auerbach was unavailable for comment.

A number of his works are in private collections.

Mayhew-Lewis, 69, is still being sought by the NCA after absconding a year ago.

If the assets are forfeited they are likely to be sold at auction, where it is understood the painting could sell for around £1.6 million - it's estimated value according to the court - with the cash given to the public purse.

Jamaican national Mayhew-Lewis (below), from Oxted, Surrey, came on the NCA's radar in 2017 when there was a cash seizure of £475,000 at Heathrow Airport in July.

Officers found text messages on the cash courier’s phone detailing conversations with Mayhew-Lewis about bribing officials in Africa. No evidence of bribery offences was ever obtained, but officers identified he was laundering money on behalf of organised crime groups involved in the drugs trade.

Following the sharing of intelligence, he was arrested by West Midlands Police in 2019 and found to be transporting eight kilos of gold worth around £250,000.

He was arrested by the NCA in July 2020 as part its wider probe into the laundering of criminal cash.

Mayhew-Lewis was found guilty following a trial at Southwark Crown Court in January 2023, but skipped bail before his sentence hearing in March 2023 and has not been seen since.

He was sentenced in his absence to five years for money laundering and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

In July 2023 he received an additional nine months, to be served consecutively, for perverting the course of justice after operating a scheme that helped criminals evade speeding offences.

In a wanted appeal last year, the NCA said he played a leading role laundering money for organised criminals by offering services that helped them blur the origins of their cash using multiple companies to filter payments, and eventually pay them an income that appeared legitimate to outsiders.

An NCA spokesperson said: "Cash was moved across a network of bank accounts, with a fee taken in the process. On some occasions Lenn Mayhew-Lewis used companies registered overseas and operated them under the guise of investment platforms.

"Emails and phone messages analysed by NCA officers showed he could produce fake documents such as investment records and bank statements to make payments appear more plausible. On at least one occasion he also helped a client purchase a company that was used to fraudulently obtain a bounce back loan.

Several organised criminals who used his services, including a man who directed the "payments" scheme from prison, were also jailed.

The NCA spokesperson added: "Mayhew-Lewis enabled criminals to profit from serious and organised crime and circumvent the systems in place which would have alerted authorities.

"Anyone with information on his whereabouts can contact the NCA on 0370 496 7622 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."


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