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Ill-gotten gains seized despite no evidence of a crime

Member: Helen Gregory

A recent newspaper article described cash and luxury watches found in the car of two alleged criminals as ‘ill-gotten gains’.

A full police investigation was conducted but the two men were released without charge due to insufficient evidence.

However, because the men were unable to prove ownership of the Rolex watches and explain how they came by the £66,745 in cash found in a bag in the boot of the car, they had both the cash and watches seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).

This is happening increasingly often and represents a stark contrast between the presumption of innocence, that resulted in the men being released without charge, and the presumption of guilt that meant that the men had their assets confiscated because they could not prove that they had been acquired legitimately.

This reversal of the traditional burden of proof is one of the most striking features of POCA and means that POCA cases require detailed analysis by forensic accountants who can be asked to determine how money or other assets were obtained.

Helen Gregory, Forensic Director at Milsted Langdon, said: “Forensic accountants play an important role in POCA trials as I know from first-hand experience.

“Their expertise can play a vital role in both the prosecution and defence of a case, with many cases relying on the insights of forensic accounts and their findings to determine money trails and ownership of high-value assets and ultimately the value of the confiscation order.”

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