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Forensic Accountants Will Act Quickly

Member: Nifa

One of the proposed legal reforms announced in the Queen’s Speech last week was a crackdown on organised crime, involving the strengthening of the laws on recovering criminal assets.  The Serious Crime Bill 2014, which is expected to come into effect next year, will, amongst other things, cover restraint orders, assets belonging to a person subject to a confiscation order and determination of third party interests in assets.

At the moment, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA), an applicant for a restraint order, such as the Police or HMRC, must show that he or she has reasonable cause to believe that a benefit has been obtained from criminal conduct.  However, under the new proposals, an applicant for a restraint order would only be required to show that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that a benefit has been obtained from such actions.

Meanwhile, the new proposals will make it easier for a court to order that cash held in an account belonging to a person subject to a confiscation order should be paid into court, whereas, currently, this can only be done when the cash is subject to a restraint order and where the period allowed for payment under the confiscation order has elapsed.

In addition, a third party who claims an interest in a property in which the defendant also has an interest, such as a spouse or family member, will, under the proposals, have to make representations at the start of confiscation proceedings or risk having their home or interest in a property the subject of a binding ruling.  These proposals will tip the balance in favour of the prosecuting authorities and mean that defendants and third parties should consider taking advice from lawyers and forensic accountants at as earlier stage as possible to minimise the risk of assets being wrongly seized or of innocent third parties being adversely affected.

Author: Roger Isaacs, 13 June 2014

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