More than £20 million in cash and assets has been taken from criminals operating in Kent over the past five years, with nearly £8 million taken across 2021.
Specialist financial investigators within the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate use the Proceeds of Crime Act to relentlessly pursue organised criminals, including drug dealers, fraudsters, and thieves, to ensure they are unable to benefit from their offending.
Their expertise and diligent case building led to 193 successful outcomes over the past 12 months, with these taking the form of a confiscation order or a forfeiture order.
A confiscation order is not dissimilar to a fine, but it instructs an offender to pay back the amount they have benefited from crime within 3 months from their own assets. A forfeiture order strips a criminal of cash and property gained through their offending.
In 2021, £4,503,339 by way of confiscation and £3,314,184 was taken as a result of a forfeiture.
The totals mean that, over the past five calendar years, £20,077,309 has been taken using the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Detective Chief Inspector Rob Harper, from the Economic Crime Unit, said: ‘Depriving criminals of £8 million in one calendar year is a testament to the outstanding professionalism of our Financial Investigation Unit. You need to only look at the results they achieve year on year to see they are severely hampering organised criminals in Kent.
‘It would be completely inappropriate for a criminal to serve a prison sentence, only to have their illegally gained assets available to them once they are released. The Proceeds of Crime Act is a vital piece of legislation that helps us ensure that does not happen.
‘It can also be used in cases where we have been unable to prove a person was responsible for a criminal act, but when the courts agree with us that the money or property was gained unlawfully.
‘There will never be any let-up in our efforts to target individuals who bring harm to our communities and we will continue to use every available resource to ensure robust action is taken.’
The largest individual order secured in 2021 saw £3,491,433 confiscated from a man, formerly of Canterbury, who was responsible for a complex VAT fraud.
The offender used at least 12 fake identities over his life and created sham companies which falsely claimed VAT repayments from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. He was sentenced to more than five years’ imprisonment in 2018.
Although behind bars, recovering his criminal gains required diligent case building from financial investigators.
Their evidence was presented to a judge over a six-day hearing which ultimately led to the order being secured in June 2021.
- In April 2021, a convicted money launderer, from West Yorkshire, was ordered to forfeit £856,445. A confiscation order of £90,150 was also secured. The money was found inside a car stopped at the Channel Tunnel and he is two years into a six-year prison sentence for money laundering.
- In November 2021 a drug warrant at a flat in Kensington led to £745,087 being seized, money that has since been forfeited. Two men have been jailed for their roles in the money laundering, with one of the offenders also found guilty of being involved in supplying cocaine across Kent. They will serve more than seven years between them.
- A man from Worksop in Nottinghamshire was ordered to forfeit £301,270 after officers in Kent Police’s Roads Policing Unit found it in a car they stopped on the M20, near Ashford, in April 2021. Detectives are continuing to investigate the wider circumstances.
- A Chatham man linked to a county line which supplied the Medway towns had cash forfeited totalling £199,630, which had been seized during the investigation. At present, he has not been charged with a drug dealing offence and is suspected to have travelled to Albania.
- In June 2021, a Holborn man was ordered to forfeit £180,670 which had been found in a car during a routine inspection at the Channel Tunnel. Following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, it was not possible to secure a criminal charge but as he was unable to account for how he had obtained the money, which had been seized, a judge ruled it should be forfeited.
- In November 2021 a Broadstairs man, convicted of supplying cocaine, was ordered to surrender £86,648 following a confiscation order. The order was made in addition to a prison sentence of six years and nine months, which was imposed in April 2021.
- In September 2021, a Basildon man who was part of a crime group that stole cash machines from sites across Kent and Essex had £45,655 confiscated. He is also two years into a prison sentence totalling five years and nine months.
More about POCA
Where there is an identifiable victim for a case, assets recovered under the proceedings detailed have been returned to them. Where there is no victim, the returns are distributed to operational agencies, including Kent Police, under the Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme (ARIS).
Broadly, ARIS divides recovered assets between operational agencies and the Home Office which is then reinvested into policing.
If you believe someone you know has unexplained wealth or is benefiting financially from crime, please report it to Kent Police online or by calling 101.
Alternatively call the independent charity Crimestoppers in Kent anonymously on 0800 555111 or make a report via their website.