Given our long history of dealing with complex and multifaceted allegations of fraud and money laundering, we are uniquely positioned to provide advice and representation when these types of allegations feature in the context of other legal challenges, such as extradition requests or good character considerations.
We also regularly advise businesses on introducing bespoke strategies and policies to reduce their risks under the relevant legal and regulatory frameworks.
Proceeds of Crime and Money Laundering
What is the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA)?
The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“POCA”) gives public bodies, including the police, HMRC and the UK Border Agency the power to freeze the assets of a person they reasonably suspect of criminal activity. It also provides for confiscation of those assets where they are found to be the proceeds of a criminal offence
What offences come under POCA?
A number of criminal offences are encompassed under POCA. These offences fall into three primary categories: concealing, arranging, and acquiring.
Concealing is where someone knows or suspects that money laundering has taken place but attempts to cover up its existence, for example by disguising, transferring, converting or removing the proceeds.
Arranging involves people who launder money on behalf of others, often by moving the “dirty” money around with “clean” money in an attempt to hide the illegal source of the funds. See Money Laundering
The final category may encompass anyone who benefits from money laundering by acquiring, possessing, or using criminal property.
For the purposes of POCA, “criminal conduct” is conduct which constitutes an offence in any part of the UK or would constitute an offence in any part of the UK if it occurred there.
What is considered ‘Property’ under POCA?
Under POCA, property can include money, stocks and shares, jewellery, art, cars and even homes.
These things will be regarded as “criminal property” if they constitute a person’s benefit from criminal conduct, or if they represent such a benefit, and the alleged offender knew or suspected that it constituted or represented such a benefit.
Under this definition, there is no distinction between the proceeds of the defendant’s own alleged crimes and the crimes allegedly committed by others.
Should I be concerned?
In short: Yes. As well as having your assets seized or confiscated, a conviction under POCA can result in up to 14 years imprisonment.
Where it is alleged that money or other assets fall to be considered as criminal property, a person can find themselves accused even though they did not have specific knowledge that they were dealing with criminal property, but merely suspected that it was criminal in nature.
In some cases, the authorities do not have to specify what the original offence was that caused the property to be deemed criminal proceeds in the first place.
These factors can make it very difficult to defend against allegations under POCA and seeking legal advice is highly recommended.
For more information about us and our Criminal Litigation, Investigations and Regulatory services, please contact a member of the team who will be able to assist.