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White-collar criminals outsmart the Serious Fraud Office

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The amount recovered from convicted white-collar criminals is falling as fraudsters devise increasingly complex ways of hiding their assets.

The Serious Fraud Office confiscated £3.9 million in proceeds of crime over the period 2012 to 2013, despite seeking to recover £31.9 million over the same period. From 2009 to 2012, only approximately 15 per cent of a total £62 million of assets originally sought was recovered from convicted criminals.

The SFO said: “We are involved in the pursuit of some of the most financially sophisticated criminals in the UK who go to great lengths to distance themselves from their assets and thereby to frustrate the process as much as possible.

“We have a specialist team dedicated solely to proceeds of crime casework, doing everything they can to enforce confiscation orders.”

The statistics, however, can be skewed by assets still to be confiscated in a handful of complex cases, where the SFO must overcome a web of offshore trusts, overseas authorities and third-party litigation to recover any proceeds of crime.

UK authorities generally have a poor record in confiscating the proceeds of crime, with the National Audit Office finding in December that only 26p of every £100 of criminal proceeds is recovered.

That has prompted the director of public prosecutions to station specialist asset recovery lawyers in overseas jurisdictions such as Spain and Dubai, which are particular hotspots for proceeds of crime.

By Priscilla Addo-Quaye, regulatory solicitor

If you are facing confiscation proceedings it is vital that you seek specialist advice. Our team at Stephensons has expertise in all areas pertaining to proceeds of crime and financial asset recovery.