Crackdown on crime cash

AROUND �7million of assets belonging to suspected criminals could be seized by the courts today after being seized by Suffolk's law enforcement agencies.

AROUND �7million of assets belonging to suspected criminals could be seized by the courts today after being seized by Suffolk's law enforcement agencies.

Peter Gair, crown advocate for the county's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said there are currently more than 40 court orders in place on property and cash owned by alleged villains.

Among the items on the 44 restraint notices are homes, vehicles, and bank accounts which have been frozen.

The seizures are part of the continuing strategy aimed at penalising those who have profited from crime.

It is just one element of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) used by the CPS, police, HM Customs and trading standards officers in a bid to claw back ill-gotten gains.

The act is seen as a powerful crime-fighting tool not only because of its deterrent value, but also because it helps bring perpetrators to justice.

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Mr Gair said: “We hosted a seminar at Suffolk police headquarters where we invited all the interested agencies.

“Bearing in mind a lot of the cases are part of investigations by specialists, one officer said as far as he was concerned POCA was the new DNA.

“What he meant was we all know that discovery of people's identification has solved countless crimes, but the use of good financial investigation will solve just as many, if not more.

“Police now use these tools not just in drugs or fraud cases, but they will use some of them in murder cases to try to track people, and to see what they have done as a result of a crime.

“It can be used even in cases where you would not expect it, and that's very much where we are going in future. It will be the tool that will lead us to many criminals.”

Mr Gair said although the courts have ensured assets worth �7m belonging to suspected villains are currently frozen, the amount eventually confiscated is likely to be substantially less.

This is because the system relies on convictions and the value of any property following a successful prosecution.

Since (POCA) was implemented in Suffolk six years ago there have been 338 confiscation orders made following conviction, leading to �3,306,000 being recouped from criminals.

Last year alone, 95 confiscation orders were made to the value of �589,000.

Nationally �135.7 million was recovered in the financial year 2007-8, �125.36 million in 2006-7 and �96 million in 2005-6.

Police, prosecutors and courts receive a share of receipts on an 18.75%, 18.75% and 12.5% basis.

DRUG dealers have traditionally been the main target for proceeds of crime confiscations.

However, Peter Gair said over the past 12 months in particular many of the criminals who have lost property or cash committed a variety of crimes.

Among those whose assets have diminished considerably are a brothel madam, tax dodgers, and rogue traders.

Mark Beadsworth, of Kesgrave, also had to pay a five-figure sum after being given a 12-month suspended sentence at Ipswich Crown Court in February last year.

The 33-year-old pleaded guilty after being caught selling fake goods at car boot sales.

These included hundreds of pairs of counterfeit Nike trainers, along with rip-off Dolce and Gabbana jeans and Lacoste tracksuits.

Among the other fake items were Adidas tracksuits and Von Dutch baseball caps.

Mr Gair said the clothing was discovered in a lock-up container in Sir Alf Ramsey Way.

At one point during the investigation by trading standards officers a value of �44,000 was put on the goods.

However, Mr Gair said a confiscation order was made against Beadsworth, which ended with him paying �26,804.

Another criminal ruing his conviction under the money laundering laws is roofer Joseph Lee, of Cambridge, who was arrested in Newmarket and found to have a substantial quantity of cash on him.

His arrest triggered a financial investigation.

Mr Gair said: “It showed he had, in a two-year period, put more than �200,000 through various bank accounts controlled by him and yet he was virtually unknown to the taxman.”

The 28-year-old ran a business named Storm Shield, which primarly did roofing work. He mainly targeted elderly women, often charging exorbitant sums for sub-standard work.

After he was given a six-month suspended sentence at Ipswich Crown Court in June last year he was ordered to repay �70,000.

Adrian Smith, 33, of Britannia Road, Ipswich, had to pay back �15,000 after his conviction at the same court in August last year for which he got a 20-week suspended sentence.

Mr Gair said: “In Adrian Smith's case he claimed to be a self employed general builder and car valeter. His bank accounts showed unusual activity and he was selling mainly tools over eBay which we could trace to B&Q and establish they had not been paid for.

“As a result of his illegal activity he had to pay �15,000.”

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