ASSET RECOVERY - HOW IT WORKS
The Proceeds of Crime Act re-defines and simplifies the definition of Money Laundering.
As well as money, it covers any property which may have been obtained as result of money criminally gained.
So if you are enjoying watching a Plasma TV, driving round in a second family car, lounging on the expensive three piece suite, cooking in the new fitted kitchen or sitting in your newly-landscaped garden and it's all been paid for by the profits of crime, you are a money launderer.
To investigate, all the police have to show is that you knew or suspected that it was criminal property, even if that suspicion was a 'mere inkling'. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act gives the police the power to seize anything that is evidence of an offence.
There are three specific money laundering offences:
concealing, disguising, converting or transferring criminal property. For example, if you change the number plate on a stolen car you are concealing the identity of criminal property so you are money laundering. Similarly, the drug dealer who hides his cash from selling drugs is a money launderer.
arranging with another person to help do the above. For example, the partner, parent or friend who lets the criminal use their bank account or business to hide the dirty money is a money launderer, as is the dishonest financial advisor or solicitor who arranges the mortgage or the finance for a flashy car for the criminal.
acquiring, using or possessing criminal property, like the girlfriend who wears the jewellery bought for her by the bank robber.
Police can seize cash over £1,000 if they suspect it comes from crime or is to be used in crime. It is dealt with as a civil procedure so police only have to show 'on the balance of probabilities' that this is the case.
If cash has been seized police will invite the owner to explain where the money came from. If their account is verified as correct the money is returned. Otherwise the police will apply to the Magistrates Court within 48 hours to have the money detained while an investigation into its source is carried out. The money can eventually be forfeited by the magistrates.
As this is a civil, not a criminal, process it does not qualify for free Legal Aid and the onus is just as much on owner to show the money is legitimate as it is on the police to show it is illegitimate.
Confiscation only applies after an offender has been convicted.
This means that if a criminal steals power tools valued at £500, then police will confiscate £500. It does not matter whether or not the tools are recovered and it is completely separate from compensation.
It is easier to enforce confiscation than get compensation money back form the criminals. If they don't pay the confiscated amount they go back into prison and when they come out they still have to pay. If they cannot afford it after being released from prison, police can go back to the court at any point in the future when they can afford it. If they die owing the money, police can apply to have the confiscated amount removed from their estate.
Police can apply for a restraining order to safeguard the anticipated amount to be confiscated from a criminal, so they cannot dispose of anything in advance. This includes anything anywhere in the world, like that villa in Spain or second property in Thailand.