03/04/2006

Government launches agency to tackle organised crime

The government has launched an agency to help tackle serious organised crime.

Dubbed 'Britain's FBI,' the Serious Organised Crime Agency Soca will tackle drug trafficking, organised immigration crime, money laundering and identity fraud by developing an intelligence picture of organised crime.

The agency will also pursue key criminals and groups, disrupt criminal markets and attack criminal assets, to ensure that criminals cannot profit from their crimes.

Soca, which amalgamates the National Crime Squad, the National Criminals Intelligence Service and investigators from Customs and the Home Office's Immigration Service, will have new powers to compel individuals to answer questions in interviews with prosecutors and produce documents on demands; strike deals with informants and convicted offenders to turn Queen's Evidence; use enhanced powers of confiscation in respect of proceeds of crime investigations; and use Financial Reporting Orders, which allow courts to impose obligations on people convicted of specified offences to report particulars of their financial affairs.

Sir Stephen Lander, who previously was Director General of the Security Service, will chair Soca.

Commenting on Soca, Home Secretary Charles Clarke said: "The Serious Organised Crime Agency marks a step change in our efforts to stay ahead of the game in the fight against serious organised crime. It is a powerful new law enforcement organisation, which will work across operational boundaries to tackle the problem, focusing its resources on where the harms are the greatest. Drug and people trafficking will be its top priorities along with fraud and identity theft."

"Organised crime is a massive and growing problem affecting every neighbourhood in the UK. It creates huge misery for decent people, damaging our communities to the tune of over £20 billion pounds in criminal profit - more than £300 for every person in the country."

Bill Hughes, Soca Director General said: "Soca will combine proven techniques and new methods of investigation, intelligence gathering and intervention to prevent organised criminals from causing harm and misery to our fellow citizens and to the UK in general."

The Liberal Democrats welcomed the creation of Soca. However, the party's home affairs spokesperson Nick Clegg said: "This new body should be part of a wider move to free up police forces to focus on local policing. The existence of Soca weakens rather than strengthens the government's case for the arbitrary merging of police forces."

(KMcA)

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