Headlines: August 4th, 2010

Councils are using the Proceeds of Crime Act to end the lavish lifestyles of criminals. Under the Act trained officers can become`accredited financial investigators’ to help ensure those benefiting from crime pay back what they owe to society.

The Home Office Incentivisation Scheme allows councils to recover up to 37.5 per cent of the confiscated assets, with the remainder being distributed between HM Court Service and central government. This money is usually reinvested by councils back into other enforcement activities such as tackling benefit fraudsters, dealing with counterfeit goods and tackling loan sharks and environmental crime.

As well as victims of crime, such as vulnerable adults, being compensated where necessary, councils are also reinvesting the funds to help improve local areas and have installed park regeneration schemes, anti-graffiti projects and youth clubs. All designed to improve the local environment and reduce crime.

Cllr Paul Bettison, chairman of Local Government Regulation said: “The Proceeds of Crime Act is a valuable crime busting tool for councils. With any crime someone always suffers the consequences. Why should those who believe they are above the law be able to fund their lavish lifestyles at the expense of others?”

Illegal Money Lending Teams working with councils have successfully challenged a number of loan sharks across the country. In Portsmouth an illegal money lender was caught charging interest rates as high as 11,000 per cent and was ordered to pay back £337,935 plus costs of £25,000. In Wales an ex-taxman turned loan shark was ordered to pay £79,330. In Manchester a loan shark was convicted of blackmail and illegal money lending and ordered to repay £1.2 million.

Other examples of where councils have used the Proceeds of Crime Act to protect local communities and demonstrate that crime does not pay include West Berkshire Council trading standards. With funding secured from various confiscation orders, £14,000 has been used to part fund a police support officer to work with businesses on local industrial estates.