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Byline: By Brenda Hickman

Assets topping pounds 2m have been clawed back from criminals in the Northumbria Police area.

The figure was revealed today as extra financial investigators, taken on to hunt organised criminals' profits, completed a year's work.

Now the haul, seized between 2005 to 2006, is likely to be ploughed back into fighting crime.

Today police warned convicted criminals face having their assets stripped.

Det Insp Phil Butler, of the force's Economic Crime Unit, said: "We now have 30 financial investigators ( an extra 12 were funded by the Home Office and put into training last October.

"More than pounds 2m has been recovered from the proceeds of crime in the force area.

"We have had substantial success in targeting criminals were it hurts the most, in their pockets."

DI Butler added: "In the 30s in America, notorious gangster Al Capone was brought down through financial investigation and jailed for tax evasion.

"We have adopted a similar method to target so-called criminal untouchables here."

Before the Proceeds of Crime Act came in, pounds 104,000 in assets were recovered in the Northumbria force area in 2002 to 2003.

Last week in North Tyneside alone, luxury cars and cash together worth more than pounds 380,000 were seized in a suspected money laundering racket. Police worked for months to disrupt the alleged illicit operation centred on one family.

North Tyneside detectives, working with the financial investigators confiscated property under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The suspects were allegedly living a lavish lifestyle beyond their means. An intelligence-led operation led to the major recovery and six people, all relatives or partners, being arrested.

Those arrested include three women, aged 44, 26 and 22, and three men, aged 45, 43 and 29. All were bailed until December.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, police were given the power to target anyone with cash believed to be obtained from, or intended for, criminal activity.

The operation was carried out in line with Northumbria Chief Constable Mike Craik's pledge of total policing to tackle crime at all levels.

Around 150 ecstasy tablets and around one ounce of cocaine, worth pounds 1,500, were also seized in the raids.

The cars, an Audi and BMW, are said to be worth around pounds 100,000. A Ford van was also seized, along with pounds 280,000 in cash.

Det Insp Butler added: "Within the last week more than pounds 100,000 in cash has also been recovered in police operations at two premises in Gateshead.

"We are determined to break-up criminal power-bases. The next phase will target not just gangsters, but anyone living off illicit earnings. This will be rigorously carried out with the extra resources we have in place."

According to latest figures from the Assets Recovery Agency, it has been a record year for asset seizure as Durham Police claimed in excess of pounds 1m.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 28, 2006
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