Authorities to seize cash after £2.5m deposited into mechanic’s account

Ipswich Magistrates' Court Picture: ARCHANT

Ipswich Magistrates' Court Picture: ARCHANT

Authorities have been given permission to seize almost £117,000 from the bank account of an Ipswich mechanic found to have paid in £2.5million over the course of eight months.

In a ground-breaking case, thought to be the first of its kind under new powers, 40-year-old Nabil Kheder was made subject to a forfeiture order for money held in a frozen account.

Specialist organised crime officers applied for the order at Suffolk Magistrates’ Court in Ipswich on Tuesday morning.

A bench of three magistrates decided, on the balance of probabilities, that the money was intended for use in unlawful conduct.

The court heard how the bank account was set up by a third party from Wolverhampton in Kheder’s name last July.

The pair met only twice before Kheder, of Felixstowe Road, Ipswich, was given access to the account, where a total of £2.5m – almost all in cash – was deposited.

Intelligence was received by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) in late March, the court heard, suggesting Kheder was laundering large amounts of money.

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Legislation was introduced under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) in the same month – allowing police new powers in relation to the freezing and forfeiture of money suspected to be derived from criminal activity.

Officers successfully applied for the account to be frozen on April 4 – stopping any other transactions while the account was investigated – and returned on Tuesday to ask magistrates for permission to seize almost £117,000.

Kheder was not present in court to challenge the application, but will now have 30 days to appeal the decision.

Detective Inspector Rob Turner, from ERSOU’s regional economic crime unit, said: “We’re really pleased the order was granted at court.

“We want to maximise this new legislation to disrupt criminals across the region and will continue to use any powers available to show that crime does not pay.”

The forfeited money will be split between the Home Office and the individual forces represented by ERSOU’s regional economic crime unit – Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

ERSOU is one of 10 regional organised crime units.