MPS seizure of assets at all-time high and continuing to rise
The largest burglary in English legal history helped tip the scales of financial justice to new heights for Britain’s biggest force.
Latest figures reveal the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is seizing more assets from criminals than ever before with a record total of £94 million reclaimed in the past financial year.
The total value of cash seizures, confiscations and assets seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and the Misuse of Drugs Act has increased by more than 40 per cent from £67 million in 2016/17.
And already in the first two months of the new financial year, seizures have tripled – with the total for April and May rising from £7.6 million in 2017/18 to £21.7 million in 2018/19.
One of the main reasons for the increase in the amount seized from criminals has been the value of confiscation orders, which have increased by 164 per cent from £20.9 million in 2016/17 to £55.5 million in 2017/18.
In January, one of the biggest confiscation orders in the MPS’s history was handed out to the men responsible for the theft of gold and jewellery from a vault in Hatton Garden Safe Deposit.
The four men were ordered to pay back more than £6 million – or each face another seven years in jail.
Other recent cash seizures include £240,000 found split between a suitcase and rucksack in Fulham in February and a payback order of £100,642 – or face another three-year jail sentence – for offering to sell parts of endangered species, namely rhinoceros horns, elephant tusks and hippopotamus teeth.
Detective Superintendent Nick Stevens, head of the MPS’s Criminal Finance team, said: “The record seizures in the past year are a result of officers from across the Met placing financial investigation at the heart of every operation.
“The asset seizures are making a significant impact on criminality at all levels, from those engaged in gang and violent crime right through to high end organised criminal networks.
“The Met has played a key role in the introduction and implementation of the Criminal Finance Act and the new powers, together with the continued successful MPS financial crime strategy, will see the value and impact of financial work increasing over the next few years.
“We want to make sure that crime doesn’t pay and will use all legislation available to us to recover money and assets obtained by criminals.”
The MPS has also increased the amount of money claimed from ‘restraint’ of criminal assets and forfeiture orders, which are made at court, from £10.8 million in 2016/17 to £12.6 million in the past financial year.
The MPS has been a leading contributor to the creation of the Criminal Finance Act 2017 over the past two years.
It is hoped the Act will lead to more criminal assets being seized as the new powers include Account Freezing Orders, which will allow an officer who has reasonable grounds to suspect that money held in a bank account comes from crime, or is intended for future unlawful conduct, to apply to a magistrate’s court for the account to be frozen.
These funds could then be seized via the current cash seizure and forfeiture route. Banks will also be able to submit Defence against Money Laundering reports, which will create further opportunities to seize criminal wealth, recover victim’s monies and disrupt crime.
The new Act also includes Unexplained Wealth Orders, which will allow the Crown Prosecution Service, on behalf officers, to apply to the High Court to freeze property and funds which total more than £100,000, providing there are reasonable grounds that the subject, or a person connected to the subject, is involved in serious crime.
The court may issue an interim freezing order relating to all property held pending the outcome of a civil recovery investigation, to show on the balance of probabilities the assets have come from crime.
A percentage of funds forfeited and confiscated by the MPS is returned to the force through the Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme (ARIS).
But income has fallen from £10.35 million in 2011/12 to £7.24 million in the last full financial results of 2016/17.
FACTFILE: POCA TOTALS
2011/12: £57.9 million;
2012/13: £62.4 million;
2013/14: £57.8 million;
2014/15: £66 million;
2015/16: £73.04 million;
2016/17: £67.2 million; and
2017/18: £94.6 million