Criminals across the region have been stripped of more than £1m thanks to a specialist financial unit.
The Eastern Region Asset Confiscation Enforcement (ACE) team, which was launched in October 2014, works with a number of law enforcement agencies to recover proceeds of crime from offenders.
Within the Eastern Region Special Operation Unit (ERSOU) the ACE team assists enforcement of Proceeds of Crime Act Confiscation Orders on behalf of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk forces, in addition to those secured by other agencies in the region.
In the current financial year the ACE team has recovered £1,244,971 in funds which will be divided between victims of crime, the Home Office and forces within the region to fund the fight against crime and community-based projects. The unit has secured a total of £1,543,793 since its inception.
Financial Investigations Manager Steve Keating said: “The team aims to hit criminals where they feel it most – in their pocket.
“The unit will regularly re-visit cases to uncover any apparent hidden assets to ensure crime really does not pay.
“The team regularly attend the Confiscation Enforcement Court based in Dover and work closely with HM Courts & Tribunals Service to assist with cases that have extended beyond payment deadlines. This joint working has improved the effectiveness of the court, saved valuable court time, and successfully concluded long-running cases.”
In Cambridgeshire in 2015, an ACE investigation was launched when they found that a man had further available assets than what was previously thought.
The man from Wisbech was sentenced to eight years imprisonment in 2009 following convictions for drug trafficking. A confiscation order was made with an agreed benefit of £259,296 but only £13.90 was found to be available so the order was made to that value.
In early 2015 it transpired that the offender was the owner of a high value commercial car wash premises in Wisbech.
The financial investigators discovered that the premises had been purchased while the offender was serving his sentence and remained derelict until he was released from prison, at which point he renovated the property and opened a business.
Use of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) legislation permitted ACE staff to enter the business premises to complete a comprehensive inventory of assets.
The crown court judge uplifted the order to the full £259,296 and the offender was ordered to pay the money, which he did by selling his business, or face a default sentence of five years in prison.
This case demonstrates that the ACE team will keep revisiting old confiscation orders and where new assets are identified, take the case back to the court until the full order is satisfied.