A new power introduced by the Criminal Finances Act 2017 (CFA) has recently been used for the first time by UK authorities: Account Freezing Orders (AFOs). The CFA also introduced Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs), which have received much more comment and attention, but the recent spate of AFOs show that they might in fact be the more significant development arising from the CFA and one that ends up affecting more people.
The very first AFOs were successfully used to seize criminal funds in the first few months of 2019. Interestingly, the UK authorities have taken a long time to use this new power, as was the case with UWOs, but these first cases give an interesting insight into how AFOs operate and how they are likely to be used in the future.
We will watch with interest to see how this matter develops, and whether any challenges or appeals go through the courts. Needless to say, AFOs have made a significant debut in 2019 and we can expect to see many more being used in the future; not least because the UK authorities have explicitly stated their intention to do so. Read the full article, including our review of the NCA's first two AFOs, below.
Criminals need to launder the proceeds of their crimes to carry on their criminal activity… we need to ensure that we are able to respond to that threat… POCA already contains provisions for the seizure of cash, but we do not have an equivalent power to take quick and effective action against funds held in bank accounts, and criminals know that. Given the use made by criminals of the banking system, we need to plug that gap. House of Commons Hansard, Criminal Finances Bill (Fourth Sitting), Thursday 17 November 2016