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CRACK SOUAD TARGET Mr BIG MONEY; Crime bosses to pay.

Byline: ANDREW WALKER

ON the mean streets of prohibition-era Chicago, Eliot Ness led an elite band of crimefighters in a fearless battle against the thugs and gangsters who ruled the vice-ridden city.

Their crusade became the stuff of legend - and in the end, it wasn't cops but accountants who toppled Al Capone and his low-life cronies.

Now Scotland is getting its own version of The Untouchables, charged with recovering ill- gotten gains from the country's crimelords.

Rich crime bosses living a life of luxury at the expense of their victims' misery now face a new foe - a crack unit of money men who will track down their dirty money and take it from them.

Details of the hit squad were revealed yesterday when Scotland Office minister George Foulkes outlined plans to the House of Commons.

He said: "The Mr Bigs are going to be running scared, wondering where they can hide the profits of their crimes."

The civil recovery unit will include lawyers, accountants and civilian financial investigators. An elite team of fraud squad detectives will also be seconded from forces across Scotland.

The unit will be based at a new crime-fighting campus in Paisley, which also house the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Criminal Intelligence Service in Scotland.

The civil recovery unit will focus on cases where no convictions can be secured in the courts and police will only have to show they have reasonable cause to suspect assets were funded by crime.

New laws will be passed by the summer to give the authorities tough new powers to seize the proceeds of crime.

In a dramatic change to the current procedure, the onus will now be on crooks to prove their assets are legitimate.

And professionals who help criminals hide or launder their "dirty money" will also face tough sanctions under the laws.

Foulkes said: "The unit will probably have a permanent staff of six, with police officers attached to strengthen the capability in Scotland of civil recovery.

"If experience shows the arrangements for dealing with confiscation and civil recovery don't turn out to be effective, we'd consider setting up a new agency.

"The unit should cost around pounds 500,000 a year and will be an invaluable new tool to fight this problem.

"The fact we will have accountants, lawyers and financial investigators means they will understand these complex issues and the police have experience of pursuing the criminals."

Strathclyde assistant chief constable Graeme Pearson briefed MPs yesterday on the implications for police.

He said: "The Bill is designed to deal with those who profit from crime and give us the chance to get those profits back and put them back into the community."
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 27, 2002
Words:449
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