More than £1 billion in illegally-obtained cash has been seized by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in the last five years, the latest figures have revealed.
The research, published by the department’s Fraud Investigation Service (FIS), analyses how the Proceeds of Crime Act is being used in the UK.
Introduced in 2002, the legislation criminalises the use of assets – such as property, money, shares, and other commodities – that have been obtained by criminals during the course of their criminal activities. This includes tax evasion, bribery, and any benefits received as a direct result of a person or business failing to comply with UK law.
Under the act, authorities, such as HMRC and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), have powers to seek to confiscate these assets so that “crime doesn’t pay”.
According to the FIS, more than 1,200 seizures of cash and assets – worth a combined £1 billion – have been made while on operational duty since 2016.
This includes gold bars worth £750,000 from a passenger at Manchester Airport, £48,000 found in a freezer drawer, gold jewellery and £180,000 cash seized from a safety deposit box in Birmingham, and more than £840,000 in cash seized at a residential garage in Sydenham, south-east London.
HMRC also issued hundreds of Account Freezing Orders to freeze balances in bank accounts where it is suspected that they contain criminal money, resulting in 157 criminal convictions in the UK during the 2020 to 2021 financial year.
Commenting on the report, Simon York, HMRC’s Director of Fraud Investigation Service, said: “Whether it’s cash seizures, confiscation orders or account freezing orders, recovering these assets stops criminals bankrolling their lavish lifestyles and funding further crimes that harm our communities, such as drugs, guns and human trafficking.
“HMRC deploys cutting-edge technology to investigate unexplained wealth and uncover hidden assets. Last year alone, we recouped more than £218 million from proceeds of crime.
“We are committed to recovering criminal assets and today the message is clear – crime doesn’t pay.”
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