More than £3.7 million in cash and assets has been recovered by financial investigators from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate.
Specialist officers in the Financial Investigation Unit used legislation under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) to strip drug dealers, money launderers and other offenders of illegally-earned funds or possessions across the 2019/ 20 financial year.
Successful POCA applications from the past year include:
- In February 2020, returning just under £30,000 to elderly victims following a confiscation hearing against a fraudster who posed as a police officer to steal money from victims across Kent. He used some of the funds to buy a luxury watch and a diamond ring, which were subsequently sold by police at auction. The offender was jailed for five years for the offences in June 2018.
- In December 2019, obtaining a forfeiture order against three men after more than £30,000 was found hidden in children’s toys. The money was seized in February of that year following a vehicle stop at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Folkestone and, although no one was convicted as part of a criminal case, the men could not prove the money was for use in lawful conduct and a judge therefore granted the order.
- In October 2019, obtaining a forfeiture order against a Headcorn woman convicted of fraud and drug offences to forfeit £5,000. The cash had been found in her possession alongside a variety of class A drugs in February 2018. She was jailed for three and a half years in April 2019.
- In August 2019, securing a £187,000 confiscation order against from a Ramsgate drug dealer. He had earned the money through a six-year period of offending, which included supplying amphetamines. In August 2018, he received a 12-month suspended prison sentence and was also ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
- In May 2019, getting a confiscation order which instructed a man to pay back £28,261 to a business he targeted. The offender was caught in possession of 50 counterfeit iPhones after he defrauded a number of stores by buying genuine handsets and returning a fake item to claim a refund. He was arrested after staff at a shop in Aylesford became suspicious of his activity and in July 2018, he was sentenced to two years and five month’s imprisonment.
- In June 2019, securing a confiscation order which instructed a convicted cannabis cultivator to repay more than £360,000. The money had been earned through the sale of a class B drug, which had been grown at sites across Sittingbourne, Gravesend, Rochester and North Walsham between 2013 and 2015. In July 2017, he was jailed for 14 years.
The Proceeds of Crime Act allows for investigators to recover money through two different channels, a confiscation order or a forfeiture order.
A confiscation order instructs an offender to pay the amount they have benefited from crime. Officers secured £2,461,344 through this means.
A forfeiture order deprives an offender of assets and property gained through crime. Officers secured £1,263,273 through this channel.
Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith, from Kent Police, said: ‘£3.7 million is a huge sum of money to be taken from criminals and this figure is a testament to the important and outstanding work that has been carried out by the Financial Investigation Unit.
‘Behind every crime is a victim, many of whom have been targeted due to their vulnerability. It is not right that offenders should benefit from such activity and we will always use every resource available to bring them to justice.
‘The Proceeds of Crime Act is a vital piece of legislation that helps us achieve this end. It stops criminals from continuing to reap the benefits of their illegal activities even after they have been arrested, charged and sent to prison.
‘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 be no let-up in our efforts to target people who bring harm to our communities and anyone seeking to benefit from criminality in Kent should be aware that we have the resources and expertise to target them and bring them to justice.’
Assets recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act 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.