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27/05/2004

Agency successes sees £14m stripped from criminals

With over £14 million of assets frozen and 62 cases under investigation, the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) has exceeded targets in its first full year of operation, according to its annual report.

As at 31 March 2004 the ARA had made freezing orders, interim receiving orders and tax assessments totalling £14.8 million against a target of £10 million. The agency exceeded by 24% its 2003-04 targets of the number of cases under investigation, with 62 cases against a target of 50.

The Agency said it had also been "very successful" in its key role of building capacity for financial investigation across law enforcement with over 400 Financial Investigators trained to use the powers in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 as a major crime-fighting tool.

Agency director Jane Earl said: "We have made enormous strides over the past year to create a new organisation, capable of responding to the challenges of contributing to crime reduction through asset recovery."

She added: "Every £1 confiscated by the police, Customs or ARA is £1 that cannot be recycled by criminals to finance their enterprises. Significant sums have been taken out of the criminal economy in this way - every edition of the Proceeds of Crime update reports on a number of successful cases."

In Northern Ireland the Agency has worked closely with Customs, the PSNI and the Criminal Assets Bureau to "choke off" funds to organised crime groups many of whom have paramilitary links, Ms Earl added.

Over the next year the agency plans to litigate 25 new cases for civil recovery or taxation in addition to the 62 that are still underway from 2003-04 and aims to step up activity surrounding criminal confiscation cases.

(gmcg)

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