Criminals hit where it hurts as millions of pounds seized by police

The amount of criminal cash and assets seized by police in West Midlands has risen sharply in the latest five years, new figures show.

Anti-corruption organisation Global Witness warned the £200 million recovered nationally is "a drop in the ocean" compared with the huge volumes of illegal money flowing through the UK each year.

Home Office data shows West Midlands Police collected proceeds of crime worth £3.6 million in the year to March.

Of this, £1.8 million (52 per cent) was obtained through confiscation orders, which are made during sentencing following a criminal conviction.

The rest came from powers to seize and confiscate cash via civil proceedings.

The haul was nearly twice the value seized in 2014-15, when officers recovered £1.9 million.

And Staffordshire Police collected proceeds of crime worth £3 million in the year to March.

Of this, £2.8 million (92 per cent) was obtained through confiscation orders.

The haul was nearly four times the value seized in 2014-15, when officers recovered £780,100.

Illicit

Around £208 million was collected by police forces, councils and government agencies across England, Wales and Northern Ireland using powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act in 2019-20 – a four per cent decrease from the year before, but up eight per cent compared to five years ago.

Dominic Kavakeb, of Global Witness, said: “These latest statistics really are a drop in the ocean compared with the billions in illicit wealth flooding the UK.

"It shows how much work there is still to do in the fight against dirty money, starting with the long-awaited property register that can bring transparency to the UK’s property market – for years a top choice for criminals and the corrupt looking to launder stolen cash.”

In August a property portfolio worth an estimated £17 million, purchased with “dirty money” by a Birmingham drugs trafficking gang, was seized and sold following an eight-year investigation by the National Crime Agency.

Shane Churchill, 31, Luke Golding, 21, and Jahvade Williams, 24, were jailed last December after being caught plying their trade in Shropshire.

At a proceeds of crime hearing at the town's crown court the trio were ordered to pay sums totalling £3,589.48 between them.

Powers

Churchill, of Stourbridge Road, Dudley, was jailed for four years and 11 months; Golding, of Lupin Road, also Dudley, was sentenced to three years and six months youth detention to run concurrently with a five-year sentence for a separate matter.

All three had admitted possession of heroin and possession of crack cocaine.

Williams, of Peel Road, Tividale, was jailed for three years.

The Government unveiled new measures to clamp down on corruption in 2018, including the creation of Unexplained Wealth Orders – which give authorities the power to demand a person or company explain where their cash or assets came from.

To date, the National Crime Agency has obtained UWOs on four cases with a total asset value estimated at just over £143m.

In the year to March, £208m was also frozen in more than 800 bank and building society accounts – up significantly from £95 million the year before.

The National Economic Crime centre, based at the NCA's headquarters, also launched two years ago with the aim of bringing together police and government bodies to combat economic crime, including money laundering and fraud.

An NCA spokeswoman said: “The National Crime Agency froze or seized £160m in suspected criminal assets during the last year alone, and we continue to use all of our powers, in both the criminal and civil spheres, to disrupt criminals and corrupt elites by recovering the proceeds of their criminality.”

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