The Serious Crime Act 2007 extends the Civil Recovery and Taxation powers of the Assets Recovery Agency to SOCA and, also, the Civil Recovery powers to the major prosecuting bodies. This is a significant step towards mainstreaming the powers across law enforcement agencies. The Act also provided for the merger of ARA and SOCA, with the effect that from 1st April 2008, SOCA will undertake civil recovery and tax investigations in England and Wales and Northern Ireland.
Those cases that are currently the responsibility of ARA will be transferred to SOCA and the current casework will continue to be supported. Whilst other agencies are developing their civil recovery capabilities, SOCA will continue to provide support to law enforcement agencies by taking on cases referred to it, where the use of civil recovery and tax powers would be in the public interest.
What Remains the Same?
Where a law enforcement agency or prosecution authority has a criminal case after 1st April, which it has been unable to prosecute successfully; it will be able to refer it to SOCA to consider adopting it for civil recovery and/or assessing for tax. It must meet the following criteria:
• Recoverable property must have been identified and have an estimated value of at least £10,000
• Recoverable property must include property other than cash or negotiable instruments (although cash is recoverable if it is in addition to other property)
• There must be evidence of criminal conduct that is supported to the civil standard of proof, i.e. on the balance of probabilities.
Civil Recovery and Taxation (through the Proceeds of Crime Act) in Northern Ireland will be undertaken by SOCA. SOCA will retain the capacity to provide support to partners in Northern Ireland to support the ministerial assurances that there will be no reduction in the resource available for asset recovery in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, Civil Recovery powers will still be exercised by the Civil Recovery Unit of the Crown Office.
The Confidential Hotline for Civil Recovery and Tax in Northern Ireland is 028 0931 5039.
ARA’s power to issue tax assessments where the income can be linked to criminality will also transfer to SOCA. This means that SOCA and HM Revenue and Customs will be able to co-ordinate their efforts to recover criminal profits and bring criminals within the tax system.
SOCA will also maintain the Joint Asset Recovery Database (JARD) which records asset recovery information for all law enforcement activity across the UK and provide support to financial investigators on using the service.
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