Gold bars, cash in a freezer and jewellery among £1bn taken off criminals by fraud squad

More than £1 billion has been recovered from the proceeds of crime and tax offenders since the formation of a specialist HM Revenue and Customs fraud squad five years ago.

Criminals have lost a lot of money to the fraud squad in recent years
Criminals have lost a lot of money to the fraud squad in recent years

One of the seizures included gold jewellery and £180,000 cash seized from a safety deposit box in Birmingham as part of a £194,280 tax fraud.

Launched in April 2016, the department’s Fraud Investigation Service (FIS) has now recovered assets equivalent to funding around 20,000 NHS nurses for an entire year.

FIS has been proactively pursuing the suspected proceeds of crime using enforcement powers, both criminal and civil, to disrupt the movement of cash and assets. Since 2016, more than 1,200 seizures of cash and assets have been made while on operational duty, including gold bars worth £750,000 from a passenger at Manchester Airport and £48,000 found in a freezer drawer, hidden among chicken nuggets at a house in Blackpool.

Simon York, director of the Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “To reach this £1 billion milestone in five years speaks volumes to the dedication, hard work and skill of FIS to recover the proceeds of crime from those who try to cheat the system.

“Whether it’s cash seizures, confiscation orders or account freezing orders, recovering these assets stops criminals bankrolling their lavish lifestyles and funding further crimes that harm our communities, such as drugs, guns and human trafficking. This money goes back into the public purse, helping fund our vital services such as schools and hospitals.”

“HMRC deploys cutting-edge technology to investigate unexplained wealth and uncover hidden assets. Last year alone, we recouped more than £218 million from proceeds of crime.

“We are committed to recovering criminal assets and today the message is clear – crime doesn’t pay.”

The formation of FIS in 2016 brought together HMRC’s criminal and civil investigators – a world-first for tax enforcement.

This partnership allows HMRC’s investigators to unlock the most complex financial crimes.

Criminal cash is seized by HMRC officers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA).

If the courts are satisfied the cash is from a crime, or was going to be used in a crime, they can order a forfeiture.

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