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Criminals in Wales told to pay back PS7.1m of ill-gotten gains.

Byline: DEBORA ARU Data journalist debora.aru@reachplc.com

CRIMINALS in Wales were ordered to pay back more than PS7m from the proceeds of crime last year. Exclusive figures obtained by the Western Mail show crown courts in the country issued confiscation orders worth PS7.1m in 2018/19.

However, this was down 21% compared to the PS9.0m imposed in 2017/18, a freedom of information request to HM Courts & Tribunals Service reveals.

The total number of confiscation orders was 274, down from 242, meaning the average order was for PS25,995. Confiscation orders can be imposed to deprive defendants of the benefits of their crimes. The total amount collected on all orders (not only those imposed in the period) in Wales in 2018/19 was PS5.8m.

Across the country, 612 assets were identified under confiscation orders last year - if the defendant fails to pay, the enforcing agency may use these assets to settle the order.

The most common types of assets were funds held in bank or building society accounts (126), held as cars and other vehicles (128), and held in cash (167).

Across Wales and England, courts imposed 3,840 confiscation orders for PS163.2m in 2018/19, down from 5,357 for PS259.8m in 2017/18. However, many of these orders are not yet in default - the time to pay period has not expired - and others where the time to pay period has expired are subject to enforcement activity.

HMCTS collected PS157.4m, against PS160.5m collected in 2017/18.

A total of 10,020 assets were identified - the most common asset identified was cash (2,469), followed by bank or building society accounts (2,344), and buildings and lands (1,393).

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: "Cracking down on those who do not pay is an absolute priority and we take the payment and enforcement of criminal debt very seriously.

"The agencies involved in the enforcement of confiscation orders, including the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, the Serious Fraud Office and the Crown Prosecution Service take every step to tackle outstanding debt, including the addition of interest and imprisonment for those who do not pay.

"Crucially, an outstanding order stops the criminal benefitting from the proceeds of crime and ensures that, if the assets are discovered in the future, they can be seized."

According to the Home Office, in the year ending 31 March 2018, PS185m of the proceeds of crime were collected.

Assets collected from confiscation orders accounted for the majority (78%) of the total value collected.

The lower proportion compared with the previous years may reflect the reduction in the number of orders being made and therefore the amount available for compensation.

A spokesperson for the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said: "Speaking from the perspective of the SFO, it is very difficult to establish a trend from these figures.

"Confiscation is dependent on successful criminal prosecutions, appeals, and the availability of court time to complete proceedings. It also takes time to enforce and pay confiscation orders, both of which can be made more complex by the nature of the asset.

"The process may take many years and will not provide a correlation that reliably reflects the actual activity.

"The SFO does not receive any funds from confiscation, but where appropriate we will seek a compensation order as part of the proceedings to ensure victims receive any funds captured by the confiscation order."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 20, 2019
Words:575
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