The Proceeds of Crime Act was introduced in 2002 and allows the state powers to investigate your financial affairs. If it suspects you’ve benefitted financially from criminal activity it can confiscate some or all of your assets.
When will there be proceeds of crime?
This is typically when criminals acquire wealth through illegal activity. If you’re charged with a proceeds of crime offence, unless you can prove you’ve done it to fund a drug addiction and have no other available assets, a referral for a financial investigation will normally be made. If you’re found to be making a living from crime, a confiscation application will follow. The exception to this is if there aren’t any assets and there’s no likelihood of any assets being located.
What is a criminal lifestyle?
You’re deemed to have a criminal lifestyle if the offence you’re charged with meets one or more of the following criteria:
You’re found to be involved in drug trafficking, money laundering offence, directing terrorism, people trafficking, arms trafficking, counterfeiting, intellectual property infringement, pimps and brothels, blackmail, an offence of attempting, conspiring, inciting, aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring an offence specified above
Your conduct forms part of a course of criminal activity
You’ve committed the offence over a period of at least six months and you’ve benefited from your conduct
What’s the criminal lifestyle test?
It’s when you’re convicted of one or more of the offences listed in the first bullet point of the question above or if you’ve benefitted by at least £5,000 from criminal activity.
What’s a restraint order?
This is an order the court makes which allows it to freeze assets, anywhere in the world, that could be liable for confiscation after a trial and the making of a confiscation order. It can be made against you if you’re the defendant, as well as someone else the authorities are investigating and believe to be holding assets that can be realised. The aim of a restraint order is to keep your assets available for a confiscation order in the event you’re convicted, whilst meeting any reasonable needs you may have in the meantime.
Will there always be a proceeds of crime confiscation order following a conviction?
No, confiscation may not be appropriate if you’ve repaid or returned the full extent of the benefits you obtained through your criminal activity. Also, if the value of the benefit you received was so low that any repayment would fully, or substantially, compromise your financial stability. This can also apply if you’ve been before the youth court. Finally, if there aren’t any identifiable assets, a proceeds of crime confiscation order wouldn’t be enforceable.
What happens if I don’t pay the confiscation order?
If the court sets an amount to be paid, it will also set a period of imprisonment in the event you default on the repayment. This can range from a period of weeks to several years.
If I serve the default term, can I be sent back to prison if I continue not to pay?
No, but that matter won’t simply go away, the court will expect you to make efforts to pay.