New Proceeds of Crime LegislationNovember 28, 2018
Proceeds of Crime refers to those monies or assets obtained by persons through the conduct of criminal activity. Legal authorities have various powers to confiscate these assets to secure wealth illegally obtained.
New powers have recently been granted to authorities under the terms of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 (CFA) to confiscate proceeds of criminal conduct. The recent national headline case of Zamira Hajiyeva highlights one of these powers. Readers may remember that case as the High Court was informed that Mrs. Hajiyeva had spent more that 16 million pounds in Harrods over the course of a decade as well as purchasing two properties to the value of 22 million pounds. Under the CFA the National Crime Agency issued an unexplained wealth order (UWO) against Mrs. Hajiyeva requiring her to prove how she was able to fund the assets she had obtained. It must be noted that it is a requirement that the respondent is politically exposed and that person’s source of income would have been insufficient to acquire the relevant property. Politically exposed can refer to funding acquired through any state owned enterprise. An order threatening imprisonment may attach to any UWO which may make any third party at risk of being in contempt of Court. No right against self incrimination in criminal conduct currently exists.
A further power created under the CFA is known as an Account Freezing Order (AFO). This enables authorities to freeze a bank account to prevent funds being disposed of during an ongoing investigation. Application can be made to forfeit these funds for up to 2 years, the minimum amount being £1,000.00, bringing many more persons within the reach of this legislation. Only the requirement that there were reasonable grounds for suspecting that the property is recoverable, namely that that property is suspected as being the proceeds of crime, is required.
The state has therefore acquired even more potentially draconian powers in the acquisition of allegedly nefariously acquired assets. If any person is concerned or drawn into proceedings involving either confiscation or money laundering then it is important to seek immediate independent legal advice. Cunninghams Solicitors would be happy to assist in such matters.