Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
Blackfords LLP has a dedicated Proceeds of Crime Team ranked in Chambers and Partners as experts in this field. Our expert lawyers have a wealth of experience and a thorough understanding of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) as well as the previous legislation under the Drug Trafficking Act 1994 and the Criminal Justice Act 1988.
Investigators and Prosecutors may seek to obtain a Restraint Order against suspects in criminal proceedings at a very early stage in the life of a case. The Restraint Order is obtained privately without the knowledge of the suspect and has immediate worldwide effect over all assets. The impact of this can be devastating for clients and their families and prevents the payments of direct debits or standing orders for everyday financial transactions such as mortgage payments, utility bills, credit cards and school fees. Our lawyers can assist in challenging the Restraint Order, either by seeking the discharge of it or making arrangements for necessary expenditure to be sanctioned.
Cash Seizures and Forfeiture
The Proceeds of Crime Act also allows the Police, Customs or Border Police to seize cash sums of £1,000 or more from individuals if they believe that the money is from the proceeds of crime or will be used for unlawful means.
Challenges to such seizures have to be made to a Magistrates’ Court. Our lawyers are specialists at making such applications and resisting application by the prosecution authorities for the permanent forfeiture of the seized cash.
In the event of a conviction in a criminal court, the prosecution have the right to seek the confiscation of assets which they believe are the proceeds of crime. These are complex and lengthy proceedings where the normal rules of evidence are reversed so most of the burden falls upon the defendant to show that his assets are not from the proceeds of crime. We have considerable expertise in challenging these proceedings so that applications to confiscate millions of pounds of assets are reduced to much smaller or nominal amounts.
Civil Seizure and Unexplained Wealth Orders
Under Part 5 POCA the High Court can issue a Civil Recovery Order (CRO) for the seizure of assets, or an amount to the value of that asset, where it is believed the property is part of criminal proceeds. There is no requirement for the individual holding the property to be convicted of a criminal offence or have been through criminal proceedings. These are criminal proceedings in Civil Courts and the National Crime Agency (NCA) only have to prove on a balance of probabilities that the property is a proceed of crime for a CRO to be ordered.
The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has been amended by the Criminal Finances Act 2017 which came into force in April 2017. It has created amongst other things a new mechanism for enforcement agencies to recover property and combat money laundering through Unexplained Wealth Orders. The order can be made against anyone and does not require having a person to have been convicted of a crime. It is up to you to prove that your property has not been acquired through unlawful means.
Please speak with either of our key contacts for assistance with any of these issues.