Met Police seize record £94 million assets from criminals in just 12 months

A record £94 million worth of assets were seized from criminals by police in London in the last financial year.

And detectives have already confiscated another £21.7 million worth in the first two months of the current financial year – almost treble the sum in the same period the previous year.

Latest figures show police are seizing more assets from criminals than ever before.

The total value of cash seizures, confiscations and assets seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) has increased by more than 40 per cent from £67 million in 2016/17.

One of the main reasons for the increase in the amount seized has been the value of confiscation orders, which have increased by 164 per cent from £20.9 million in 2016/17 to £55.4 million in 2017/18.

Confiscation orders are made after a court conviction to deprive criminals of the proceeds of their crimes.

In January, one of the biggest confiscation orders in the Met’s history was handed out to the men responsible for the infamous Hatton Garden heist.

The four men convicted were ordered to pay back more than £6 million or each face a further seven years behind bars.

One of the biggest recent cash seizures was £240,000 found in two bags on February 21st in Fulham, west London.

Alexander Guevara-Mejia was stopped by police and £200,000 worth of cash was found in a suitcase and another £40,000 in a rucksack he was carrying.

Guevara-Mejia, 40, of Crouch End, north London, pleaded guilty to a charge of transferring criminal property and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in March.

A crook currently serving a jail sentence for offering to sell parts of endangered species has been ordered to pay back £100,642 in the next six months or face another three-year jail sentence.

Allawi Abbas, 53, of Watford, Herts, was sentenced to 14 months in jail last November for offering for sale rhinoceros horns, elephant tusks and hippopotamus teeth.

A financial investigation under POCA pursued by the Met’s Criminal Finance Team resulted in a criminal benefit agreed at £961,777 and his available assets were agreed to be £100,642.

Any other major funds up to the benefit amount that he accumulates during his lifetime will be removed from him as and when they come to police notice.

And a yacht seized by the Met from a man convicted of a £2.4 million fraud offence was sold for £58,000 in January 2017. The money has been used to pay off a £1.2 million confiscation order.

The Met has also increased the amount of money claimed from ‘restraint’ of criminal assets and forfeiture orders, which are made at court, from £10.8 million in 2016/17 to 12.6 million in the past financial year.

Police chiefs believe there will be more criminal assets seized in the future.

New powers include Account Freezing Orders (AFO) which will allow an officer who has reasonable grounds to suspect that money held in a bank account comes from crime, or is intended for future unlawful conduct, to apply to a magistrate’s court for the account to be frozen.

Such funds could then be seized via the current cash seizure and forfeiture route.

Banks will also be able to submit Defence against Money Laundering (DAML) reports, which will create further opportunities to seize criminal wealth, recover victims’ cash and disrupt crime.

The new act also includes Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO), which will allow the CPS to apply to the High Court to freeze property and funds which total more than £100,000, providing there are reasonable grounds that the subject, or a person connected to the subject, is involved in serious crime.

Detective Superintendent Nick Stevens, head of the Met’s Criminal Finance team, said: “The record seizures in the past year are a result of officers from across the Met placing financial investigation at the heart of every operation.

“The asset seizures are making a significant impact on criminality at all levels, from those engaged in gang and violent crime right through to high end organised criminal networks.

“The Met has played a key role in the introduction and implementation of the Criminal Finance Act and, the new powers, together with the continued successful MPS financial crime strategy, will see the value and impact of financial work increasing over the next few years.

“We want to make sure that crime doesn’t pay and will use all legislation available to us to recover money and assets obtained by criminals.”

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