Last Friday the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced that it had used its first account freezing order (AFO) to forfeit £1,522,756.72 from a convicted fraudster. This money will now go to HM Treasury.
At the start of February we commented on the first use of AFOs by the National Crime Agency, which seized nearly half a million pounds from various bank accounts.
The recovery of this much larger sum of £1.5m will no doubt be seen as a great success by the SFO. It is also another interesting example of UK authorities making use of their new powers.
AFOs were introduced in the Criminal Finances Act 2017 and now form part of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA). Under section 303Z9 POCA a senior officer may apply for money held in a frozen bank account to be forfeited if they are satisfied that the money is recoverable property (which broadly means property that is obtained through unlawful conduct (s304(1) POCA)) or that a person intends to use it in unlawful conduct.
In this particular case, the target was a convicted fraudster. His account was frozen under an AFO and the SFO subsequently applied for the funds to be forfeited, which was granted at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 14 March 2019.
The UK authorities seem to be getting more active across the board, making use of new powers that they were - in some cases - slow to adopt. We will continue to watch with interest as more AFOs and account forfeitures are pursued.
Our actions send a clear message to anyone involved in fraud, bribery or corruption – that we will work tirelessly to get back the proceeds of your crimes.”