The UK Government has enormous power to restrain, confiscate and forfeit assets owned by businesses and individuals. For many offences there is a presumption that all of a person’s assets and income for the last 6 years are the proceeds of crime and therefore subject to mandatory confiscation. A judge may rule that someone has “hidden assets” and order payment far beyond the actual resources available. Failure to pay can result in lengthy imprisonment in default.
Some businesses and individuals find their resources frozen before they are even aware that an investigation is going on.
Such powers have attracted considerable controversy. Not surprisingly, there have been numerous challenges in the appeal courts, resulting in a rapidly growing and constantly changing body of precedent. This is therefore now a highly specialised area of the criminal law.
Fighting confiscation is a war of attrition, but there is much to be gained by taking a realistic view on which assets can be defended. Better off defendants who receive the right advice should avoid losing all they have built through a lifetime. The Courts have on occasion acknowledged the economic damage which excessive confiscation can do to business.
At Hickman & Rose we have considerable experience on such cases. Our recent successes have included:-
- the discharge of a restraint order freezing the global assets of an international shipping magnate by demonstrating the inadequacy of a police investigation
- winning a contested hearing where the prosecution sought £70 million criminal proceeds across Europe. The judge made a final order for £1384 and praised Hickman & Rose for working “assiduously” on the defendant’s behalf.