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MAR
29

Cash seizure and restraint - latest developments

We are increasingly instructed to represent individuals who have had cash restrained which they had in person , or in their bank accounts .

The monies (over £1000.00) are seized and restrained by the authorities such as HMRC , NCA, the Met police , City of London Police and Customs & Excise  to name but a few , if they suspect that the monies are the Proceeds of Crime .

The definition of proceeds of crime is very wide ... it includes Terrorism Financing , fraud , sanction offences , Modern Slavery Act, fraud , tax evasion, money laundering  and people trafficking .

Their powers to do so are contained within the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002( ss289 and following )  POCA ,and are often used by the authorities to 'disrupt ' what they believe to be criminal activity ... frankly it's quicker and more effective than pursuing  expensive and lengthy criminal prosecutions .

Additionally ,perhaps stung by criticism of their approach to money laundering  by various international authorities ,they have become more pro- active in their approach . As a result they work closely with the banks and leading international financial institutions ,to report suspicious activity ( SAR reports ) movements and transactions on accounts .

It was recently reported that a number of people traffickers were identified to the NCA because of activities on their bank accounts .Apart from reporting information to the authorities the banks will also work closely with them when it comes to freezing accounts or moving suspicious monies .

Further it seems that the authorities are scrutinising the activities of money exchangers or brokers and bureaux who transfer funds , usually from abroad , and very often using Islamic Financial systems .

Some leading money broker agencies have been investigated and closed down by the authorities over the last two years in the U.K.

They are of the view that the involvement of money exchangers( Hawala brokers )gives rise to the suspicion of money laundering .

The Hawala system involves the transfer of monies based on a system of trust ,without any movement of monies .

We have successfully argued against this in a number of cases on behalf of clients .

Some jurisdictions simply do not have safe , independent , reliable banking systems and people living here will want to transfer monies to relatives living in those jurisdictions and who are dependent upon those monies .

What can the authorities do ?

Initially they can within 48 hours of the seizure of monies apply to the relevant Magistrates Court for an initial Restraint period of up to 90 days .

They can restrain the monies for an overall period of up to two years , and at any time during that period apply to formally forfeit the monies .

These are civil proceedings heard in a criminal court and the burden is on the individual ,in original possession of the cash ,to prove to the court upon 'the balance of probabilities ' that the monies are completely legitimate and not the proceeds of crime .

There will be a number of intermediate  hearings before the final hearing when the issue will be determined by the Court .

What can you do ?

If you find yourself in the position of having funds restrained , it will fall upon you to prove that the monies are legitimate .

It can mean that you will have to overcome significant hurdles particularly if the funds have come from abroad .In essence you will have to provide an immaculate paper and money trail to the satisfaction of the Court .

In a very recent case , we represented an academic living in the U.K. Who had received over £800,000 in his account , which represented the proceeds of sale of an inherited property in Pakistan .

The purchaser insisted upon using money exchangers to process the monies which arrived in several lesser amounts in our clients account , against his who had asked for a bank to bank transfer .

When the £800,000 finally arrived in his account and was immediately transferred to a secret escrow account by the bank without notice . After the monies were moved , our client received a call from HMRC demanding an immediate interview .

We were instructed to act , asked for a weeks reprieve in order to enable us to work with our client to prove the complete money trail , with supporting paperwork that had to be officially translated and stamped as authentic by the British Consulate and all the relevant banking institutions in Pakistan  .Additionally , that paperwork had to be supported with sworn affidavits by those involved.

It took a great deal  of work and long hours (not least because of the time difference between here and Pakistan ) Our client was interviewed at length by HMRC who were served with a complete bundle of documentation by our client and ourselves .

At the end of a tough interview HMRC agreed to refund the full £800,000 and not restrain the monies .

This is just one example of a successful resolution that we have dealt with  and how we have helped an individual secure the return of his monies .

We have dealt successfully with many of these cases , e.g. Over 100 clients whose monies and assets were seized as a result of Operation Rize , all of who had their monies returned by the Met .

Please note that there is no state or legal aid funding for such legal work , legal fees have to be met privately .

It's important before you decide to instruct lawyers to assist you , that it will be cost effective for you to do so .

If you need advice and assistance convening the seizure and restraint of monies please contact us at Lewis Nedas Law , either telephone us on 02073872032 or email us using our online contact form.

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