Stronger powers to seize criminal gains

New powers to seize criminal gains are increasingly disruptive to serious organised crime, the Lord Advocate has said.

Recent changes to the law, and new powers coming into effect in January, are making it easier to seize money, assets and property from serious criminals. 

The Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, told the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce on Monday that £3,650,000 has already been seized by the Crown’s Proceeds of Crime and Civil Recovery teams this year, nearly £1 million more than at the same time last year.  

Law enforcement agencies will continue to pursue criminal assets, including assets which were not identified during the initial investigation. In the last three years over £400,000 has been seized from people who thought their case was over. 

On Friday the court approved confiscation of £6,000, found at the home of Lindsay Dalgleish who was jailed in 2015 for two charges of supplying drugs. The money takes the Crown closer to recovering the £54,000 he was judged to have made through crime. 

Recent changes to the law mean that restrictions – such as passport seizure, monthly repayment of criminal gains and a requirement to notify when a property is put up for sale – can now be imposed on criminals to ensure that assets are recovered. 

From January new powers will mean money and assets that cannot be legitimately accounted for by individuals reasonably suspected of involvement in serious crime can be seized. If such an individual fails to explain where their wealth came from it will be assumed it came from proceeds of crime and the burden falls on them to prove otherwise. 

Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said:

“The principle underpinning our proceeds of crime laws is simple – criminals should not be allowed to profit from their crimes. Law enforcement agencies will take robust action to remove criminal profits from those who benefit from them. 

“The powers we have to target criminal assets are important weapons in tackling criminality, including serious organised crime. Using these powers, we can disrupt the ability of criminal enterprises to generate profit, and so continue to function.”

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson said:

“We are continuing to make progress in disrupting the activities of criminals in Scotland and I am encouraged to hear about the levels of assets being seized, which is a credit to our police and prosecutors.

“We will continue to put these ill-gotten gains back into communities through the Cashback programme and there will be no let-up in tackling organised crime and the harm it causes.”

Deputy Chief Constable Johnny Gwynne (Crime and Operational Support) said: 

"Police Scotland welcomes the forthcoming measures introduced by the Criminal Finances Act which will increase our capability to disrupt the activities of those who profit from ill-gotten gains, and make us better able to remove this source of funds from them.

"Police Scotland works tirelessly to identify criminal assets and subsequently recommends consideration of restraint to Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) ahead of potential confiscation proceedings. 

"Our emphasis will always be on removing criminal monies from individuals who play a prominent role in serious and organised crime groups so as to minimise the harm they can inflict on Scotland's communities."