The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 empowers the various prosecuting authorities not only to seize and detain cash, usually in proceedings in a Magistrates Court, but also issue proceedings in the High Court for the civil recovery of property believed to have been obtained by or representing the proceeds of “unlawful conduct”.
There is no need for a criminal conviction in such cases (proceedings can even be instigated in the event of an acquittal), and to be successful the prosecuting authorities need only prove their case to the (lower) civil standard of proof – the balance of probabilities. The unlawful conduct in question can have occurred anywhere in the world, and in substantial cases, will typically emanate from fraud, money laundering or drug trafficking.
In civil recovery cases all forms of property are potentially recoverable, not just that which is in the possession of the party said to be responsible for the unlawful conduct; and in many cases family members and other third parties are added to the litigation where they can be shown to have an interest in the recoverable property, perhaps having received a ‘tainted gift’ or had money transferred to them.
The number of cases of this nature continues to increase, as prosecuting authorities plough more resources into recovering the proceeds of crime, and here at Reeds we have a number of senior practitioners with substantial expertise in defending such actions.
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