May 24 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, October 18, 2012
BORDER Force officials have been left with a £340,000 windfall after the money’s owner failed to fight for its return.
A total of 422,900 Euros was seized during a search of a lorry at Harwich port as suspected proceeds of crime after it was found hidden beneath a flower box.
A civil application to forfeit the cash was brought before South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court in Ipswich to give the owner the chance to prove it had been earned legitimately.
However, despite two people being named on the court list no one attended the hearing to contest the forfeiture leading to the money being confiscated.
It was found after two Dutch nationals, aged 54 and 57, were stopped by Border Force officers on May 4 as they waited with their lorry to board a ferry bound for the Hook of Holland.
Johannes Tilly and Jan Van Vliet, who are both from Rotterdam, told the officers they were not carrying large amounts of cash.
However, a search of the vehicle revealed Euro banknotes concealed among bags underneath an empty and upturned plastic flower box. The cash was detained under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).
When interviewed the men denied all knowledge of the cash and were never charged with any offence.
The driver said he had driven to the UK via the Channel Tunnel on May 3 carrying a load of flowers.
He had received a phone call from his employers asking him to exchange loads with another driver at Thurrock Services, which he did.
However, he could not provide details of the person who phoned him, nor his immediate superior, nor even a description of the lorry driver with whom he exchanged loads.
After making the exchange he said he had gone to eat at the services, leaving the trailer unsealed.
He then drove to Harwich.
The other man, who was a passenger in the lorry, said he was travelling purely as a friend and had not assisted with the transfer of goods at Thurrock.
After the court case, Malcolm Bragg, from Border Force, said: “Border Force has a responsibility to investigate cash in excess of £1,000 when we have reasonable grounds to suspect that it is linked to any criminal enterprise and bring this before the court. Working with other law enforcement bodies, the UK is now at the forefront of the world-wide crackdown on criminal finances recovering over £1billion since POCA was introduced.”