defending bank account freezing orders

If you or your business is subject to a bank freezing order you will need expert legal advice and representation. Our team of Freezing Order Solicitors have the skill and experience needed to help you tackle this damaging and stressful situation.

Account Freezing Orders (AFO), and Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO) are the latest mechanisms available to the authorities fighting against fraud and organised crime.

These powers allow the police to apply for a bank account to be frozen with the intention of recovering the proceeds of crime through forfeiture.

AFO’s are easy to obtain because the authorities do not need to prove any underlying crime to justify freezing an account, and the burden of showing ‘reasonable suspicion’ that funds in an account were gained unlawfully is very low.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act (2002), authorities have wide ranging powers to confiscate assets that are considered to have been obtained through criminal activity. It is up to the accused to prove the legitimacy of the funds and assets they hold.

This can lead to innocent individuals being caught up in this new legislation.

Innocent third parties affected by account freezing orders should instruct a solicitor to apply for the release of those funds. Anyone with a legitimate interest in funds contained in a frozen account can apply to vary the freezing order so that the funds belonging to them can be returned.

If you have been served with a freezing order contact Draycott Browne for specialist advice now.

WHY CHOOSE DRAYCOTT BROWNE?

If you need expert advice on challenging bank freezing orders, we can help. Get in touch with our team of defence lawyers today.

  • We are experts in dealing with financial crime, freezing orders and POCA cases.
  • We understand the complex issues and procedural requirements.
  • We have an excellent reputation as criminal defence lawyers.
  • We work regularly with the enforcement agencies.
  • We will challenge every assertion the prosecution puts forward, to protect your interests as far as possible both now and in the future.

Our legal team is available 7 days a week. If you or your business need expert legal advice or representation at any stage of an investigation, call Draycott Browne today using the number at the top of this page or complete our contact form and we'll call you back.

When you are facing the stiffest legal challenges, you cannot afford to settle for anything less than Draycott Browne.

What is an account freezing order?

A Freezing Order can be served against an individual or company for a number of different reasons, but suspicious activity is the most common.

Most freezing orders are applied for after the National Crime Agency (NCA) receives a suspicious activity report from a bank.They are often triggered by an unusual pattern of cash payments or large transfers from a country on the watch list.

In the past, few were acted on. But, since new powers were introduced in 2017, there has been a surge in applications for account freezing orders, particularly by HMRC.

If a bank becomes suspicious about the source, activity or intended use of funds within a bank account they have a legal duty to submit a suspicious activity report (SAR) and lodge this with the NCA. It is likely that the NCA will request a local economic crime investigation unit to consider applying for an Account Freezing Order.

Our specialist Fraud Lawyers have vast experience in dealing with all types of POCA cases and seek to provide pro-active defence representation.

How will a freezing order affect you?

An account freezing order can have a dramatic effect on your business or on your life as an individual. Being unable to access your own funds can leave you in very difficult circumstances.

You will not be able to access your account in any way either at the branch or online. Your direct debits and standing orders will be cancelled, and cash withdrawals will be suspended.

The only way to access a minimal sum to live on is by making an application to the court. Usually, you would have to attend an interview with the investigating body and answer intrusive questions about your assets, income, and the nature of specific transactions in your account. At this point, the police may decide to turn the matter into a criminal investigation.

Our Fraud Lawyers are here to help you apply for the release of frozen funds so that you are able to maintain your home and support your family.

How long does a freezing order last?

While it may be easy for the authorities to obtain a freezing order to investigate a case, getting a bank account unfrozen, even if you have a legitimate explanation for the source of the funds, can be very problematic and time-consuming.

When a bank identifies a suspicious transaction, it notifies the NCA and freezes the account until the NCA provides a response. Sometimes the NCA grants consent for the transaction within hours or days, and the account holder regains access. If the NCA does not respond within 7 days, consent is deemed to have been given and the bank can lift the inhibition on the account.

If the NCA decides that the transaction requires further investigation, consent will be refused, and the account will remain frozen for a further 31 days. During this period the NCA will decide what action to take. It is possible for senior law enforcement offices to apply to the Crown Court for an extension to the 31 days moratorium period by up to six months.

While the provenance of the funds is investigated, an account can be frozen for up to two years. Clearly this can be crippling for an individual or small business. We specialise in taking proactive steps to try and get the funds released and in contesting forfeiture applications.

Why can’t I get any information from my bank?

When a bank’s computers identify a suspicious transaction, the Nominated Officer is obliged to take action, by filing a suspicious activity report (SAR) with the NCA, if he or she has any concerns. Failing to do so would be a criminal offence under sections 330-332 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Those in the regulated sector are on the frontline of policing money laundering, and they are liable for prosecution if they do not take action when they should.

Furthermore, it is also a criminal offence to inform the subject of a SAR that a report has been made as this knowledge is likely to prejudice the investigation by giving the people involved time to notify each other, flee the country or hide evidence.

For this reason, banks cannot provide account holders with any information about why an account has been frozen.

The result being that Nominated Officers err on the side of caution to protect themselves, leading to thousands of SARs each year causing inconvenience and potentially financial loss to those unable to access their funds.

Forfeiture Orders

After an account has been frozen, it is possible for the authorities to apply for the funds to be forfeited. They will need to provide sufficient evidence of criminal activity for the order to be granted, but there is no need for a criminal conviction. Money in frozen accounts can be seized using forfeiture orders if the court is satisfied that the money was earned through, or is intended for, any unlawful conduct.

Appeals can be lodged within 30 days of the forfeiture order being made.

Police forfeiture applications are often highly opportunistic and are frequently made when the police have little or no evidence to support the suspicion that the money in an account is the product of criminal activity. Therefore, they are open to challenge by an experienced fraud defence solicitor.

CONTACT US

The Fraud Solicitors at Draycott Browne, are widely recognised as one of the North of England's leading team of Criminal Defence Solicitors with specialist fraud, money laundering and business crime expertise.

Contact us today by calling the number at the top of this page. If you would like us to contact you, simply fill in our online enquiry form and a member of the team will be in touch as soon as possible.

We are highly regarded nationally across the legal profession and noted for consistently delivering positive results. Our team possesses a breadth of technical knowledge and experience of bank freezing orders and will provide you with the expertise needed throughout the process.

Our team of Criminal Defence Lawyers regularly act for clients in London and throughout Midlands and of course the North West including clients from Birmingham and Liverpool. By entrusting Draycott Browne, one of the top Criminal Defence Law Firms in the country, you can be assured that you will be working with a team of highly skilled and experienced lawyers who have a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the law.

Our legal team is available 7 days a week. For expert legal advice or representation, call Draycott Browne today on (0)161 228 2244.

When you are facing the stiffest challenge, you cannot afford to settle for anything less than Draycott Browne.

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