Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Monday, 2 June 2008 16:56 UK

Police raid safe deposit offices

Armed police officer stands guard outside Park Lane Safe Deposit, Mayfair
Armed police stood guard outside Park Lane Safe Deposit, Mayfair

Police have raided a safety deposit box firm's offices which they suspect have been used to store criminal assets.

The company is believed to be a front for organised crime gangs operating in firearms, money laundering, human trafficking, drugs and prostitution.

The Met Police said that 300 officers took part in the raids in London, codenamed Operation Rize.

Assistant Commissioner John Yates said: "Each box will be treated as a crime scene in its own right."

'Tirelessly and methodically'

Scotland Yard said that Met's Specialist Crime Directorate raided seven properties: three safe depositories, an office and three residential addresses.

Assistant Commissioner John Yates believes it will impact 'many layers of serious crimes'.

One of the offices was identified as Park Lane Safe Deposit, Mayfair.

The homes searched were in London and Hertfordshire and belonged to people who are directors of the firm Safe Deposit Centres Limited, Mr Yates told reporters.

Two people were arrested on suspicion of money laundering offences after search warrants were secured at Croydon Crown Court, he added.

The individuals were taken to central London police stations, the Met said, and a number of people were being interviewed as potential witnesses.

Cordons at the business site are being guarded by armed officers because of the potential value of their contents.

Mr Yates said that the police investigation had been under way for two years, but the searches has been finalised in the previous eight months.

Safety deposit boxes at raided site
Officers believe the boxes were being used to store criminal assets

He added that Rize is the first operation of its scale that the Met has carried out against criminals using this method of storage.

"This is an unprecedented operation and my officers have worked tirelessly and methodically, advised throughout by leading counsel, to ensure that this is the right action to take," Mr Yates told reporters.

"Operation Rize seeks to preserve the integrity of London as a world-wide financial centre where only legitimate business can operate.

"Criminal enterprises will not be tolerated in London."

He added that boxes would be carefully handled by trained staff and stored at a secure location.

A call centre has been set up to help restore depositors to their property on 0800 030 4613.



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