23 Jun 2014 | 11:12 am | 1 min. read
Response to pressure to prevent criminals keeping the money The number of raids launched by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to seize assets fromcriminals convicted of white collar crime jumped 29% to 27 last year up from 21 the year before, according to Pinsent Masons, the international law firm.
Pinsent Masons says that the increase in SFO raids on fraudsters to seize assets is partly a response to criticism of law enforcement agencies for allowing convicted criminals to ignore confiscation orders.
Number of raids undertaken by the SFO to recover assets from fraudsters
Barry Vitou, Partner at Pinsent Masons, says: “Fraudsters and white collar criminals just do not live in fear of being caught. These raids are designed to help rebuild the SFO as an effective and credible deterrent.”
“Stripping criminals of the wealth they have gained through fraudulent activity sends the right messages to potential fraudsters, and it reassures businesses and other victims of fraud that this is a crime that is being taken seriously.”
Recent research by Pinsent Masons found that the number of raids carried out by the SFO to gather evidence against fraud suspects had also increased substantially, trebling from 8 in 2012 to 26 in just one year.
Although there has been a significant increase in the number ofraids to seize assets from criminals, thishas yet to feed through to an increase in the reported value ofthe assets seized – thisfell from £50.2 million in 2011/12 to just £11.4 million in 2012/13 (year end March 31).
Pinsent Masons explains that successfully seizing assets from fraudsters is notoriously difficult as they will use a web of bank accounts to send money offshore or transfer assets into the names of accomplices.
Barry Vitou points out that an increase in successful raids to seize assets could help budgeting problems for the SFO. The SFO can keep some money recovered from asset seizures for its own budget and with substantial cuts to its overall budget over the last few years; this source of income has become increasingly important.
Barry Vitou adds: “Earlier in the year, the SFO had to request £19m in emergency funding to meet urgent cash requirements. Increasing revenue from asset recoveries will help solve some of the SFO’s financial crisis but it is not a long term funding solution.”
* Year-end March 31st
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