Government fraud busters are to be allowed to claim millions
of pounds worth of assets, even from those who have not been found guilty of
any financial crime.
They will be able to demand that the courts strip property
from alleged fraudsters in all cases, including those where no charges have
been brought to court.
The Serious Fraud Office is set to achieve a long-standing
ambition to be given highly controversial powers to ask judges to deprive
people of their houses, cash and valuable items, simply on the assumption that
they have committed and profited from lucrative white-collar crimes.
Nearly eight years after the then SFO director Rosalind
Wright asked publicly for the ability to trigger confiscation of the proceeds
of alleged fraud, legislation will give the department the sweeping legal
powers she wanted.
In theory, the SFO, which has struggled over the years to
achieve guilty verdicts from juries in criminal trials, could short-cut the
It could ask civil courts to seize any assets it believes to
be the proceeds of financial crimes, even when there has been no guilty verdict
in a criminal court.
This could prove an easier route for the SFO to attack
suspected fraudsters rather than having to convince a jury 'beyond reasonable
doubt' in a criminal case. It would be able to obtain a seizure order from a
judge sitting alone using the much lower standard of proof of ' balance of
The Serious Crime Bill, currently before Parliament,
contains a little-noticed provision allowing 'asset recovery powers' to be
exercised by the SFO.
At present, the SFO has wide powers in cases where criminal
proceedings are likely. It can ask the civil courts to restrain at an early
stage the assets of those who face investigation, to prevent them being
When a fraudster is convicted it can ask the courts to
deprive the guilty parties of their ill-gotten gains.
But any attempt to seize the assets of those against whom
there are no convictions has had to be channelled through the Assets Recovery
Agency, the independent body whose job of confiscating the proceeds of crime is
being transferred to the 'British FBI', the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
However, the bill makes provision for the SFO, now run by
Robert Wardle, to assume these powers in its own right for its own cases. The
boost to its powers comes as the SFO is recovering from the furore over its
decision to drop a long-running inquiry into bribery allegations against
defence group BAE Systems.
And you thought you lived in a democracy.!!
In a free society, the rights and laws protect the individual from the government.
In a dictatorship, the rights and laws protect the government from the people.
NuLab – Destroying Britain
from the inside out.