Asset Forfeiture and Cash Seizure Defence Solicitors
If you or your business is subject to asset forfeiture proceedings you will need expert legal advice and representation. Our team of Criminal Defence Solicitors have the knowledge and experience necessary to help you deal with the most challenging circumstances and find the optimum outcome for your situation.
The Proceeds of Crime Act is a complex piece of legislation with potentially far reaching consequences. Investigations can take many months to resolve, and it is vitally important that you have expert advice throughout.
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.
The experienced specialists at Draycott Browne defend individuals in the full range of offences under POCA and are committed to providing the highest standards of service tailored to our client’s needs.
Through our work across all areas of business crime and fraud we have gained experience in cases of the highest value and complexity, gaining invaluable insight, and have consistently achieved positive outcomes over many years.
How can we help?
Our team of expert criminal defence lawyers provide support on a comprehensive range of services in this field including:
- Restraint orders
- Freezing orders
- Confiscation orders
- Civil recovery proceedings
- Cash seizures
- Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO’s)
- Money laundering
What is asset forfeiture?
Asset forfeiture is when cash, property or possessions are seized by a law enforcement agency based on the suspicion that these assets were acquired by, or will be used for, criminal activity.
If your business has been implicated in criminal activity, the authorities may apply for a search warrant to enter your premises and seize your property to gather evidence for their investigation. This can be a hugely disruptive and damaging process for your company.
In the UK, asset forfeiture proceedings are initiated under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA), which fall into three types:
After a person has been convicted of a crime which involves either criminal gains, an application for confiscation proceedings may be made to the Crown Court.
A convicted defendant will need to pay back the specified amount of money by a specified date. The amount will be defined by quantifying how much the person has benefited from any relevant criminal conduct.
Cash forfeiture proceedings
Cash forfeiture laws apply to situations where funds are confiscated before there is any court ruling that the individual has broken any laws. Cash obtained through a cash seizure can be forfeited under section 297A of POCA (without a court order) and section 298 of POCA (with a court order).
Cash forfeiture is a civil law matter rather than a criminal matter, meaning the court can order forfeiture if there is evidence that the money was ‘more likely than not’ obtained illegally or going to be used for illegal activity.
Civil recovery proceedings
Similar to a confiscation order, civil recovery proceedings allow investigating agencies to seize assets without the triggering conviction on the basis that the specified property represents the proceeds of criminal conduct.
You may be required to permanently give up the assets that have been seized if the court is not convinced that your property is not associated with illegal activity, or there is not enough evidence to prove otherwise.
A criminal conviction is not necessary for your assets to be seized, but getting your assets back can be challenging. Therefore, it’s vitally important to seek legal advice from a POCA defence lawyer with extensive knowledge of asset forfeiture laws.
What Assets Can be Seized in Forfeiture?
Law enforcement agencies have been using the powers granted under POCA to seize money they suspect is the proceeds of crime extensively for some years now.
However, until 2017 it was more difficult to seize assets other than cash.
The Criminal Finances Act (2017), gives the authorities the ability to seize and forfeit a whole new range of valuable assets other than cash, such as gems, precious metals, jewellery, watches, works of art and even items such as gambling chips or vouchers that represent monetary value.
Under the terms of the Act, items that are subject to seizure must have a value of £1,000 or more. Asset seizures must be subject to oversight by the courts, and the authorities will have to show that they have reasonable grounds to suspect that the items are the proceeds of crime.
Is there a way to recover seized assets?
Under Part 1 of the Criminal Finances Act 2017, if you can prove that the money or assets are legitimate, you may be able to recover them.
The owner of the cash can contest the forfeiture at a court hearing and that it be returned. It is up to you to provide evidence to show that the cash is not connected to unlawful conduct.
For this reason it’s advisable to keep the receipts of any large cash transactions that you have been involved with in case you are accused of breaking asset forfeiture laws, or you are asked to prove these transactions for tax purposes.
However, the processes and protocols can be daunting and confusing. If you are facing cash or asset forfeiture proceedings we advise you to seek immediate legal advice to ensure that the matter is dealt with in the proper manner from the outset.
How long can seized assets be held?
Once the assets have been seized, they can be held for up to 48 hours, but an application can be made to the Magistrates Court for an extension.
If a permit is granted, seized assets can be kept for up to two years while the investigation is conducted. The funds will be held in a secure account that accrues interest until the court proceedings are complete.
What can you do if your assets have been seized?
If your assets have been seized under forfeiture laws or you find yourself in forfeiture proceedings, it’s important to seek expert legal advice at the earliest opportunity. Contact our team of experienced Asset Forfeiture Lawyers for expert advice and support today.
The Asset Forfeiture and POCA Defence Lawyers 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 asset forfeiture and recovery proceeding and will provide you with the expertise needed throughout the process.
Our team of Criminal Defence Solicitors in Manchester regularly act for clients in London and throughout the Midlands and of course the North West including clients from Birmingham and Liverpool. By entrusting Draycott Browne, 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.