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New Govt agency to clamp down on crime barons

A new Government agency launches this week with the power to confiscate or tax cash and property where the owner cannot prove they were gained by legitimate means.

The Assets Recovery Agency gets its powers through the Proceeds of Crime Act that this week also brings in a duty on IFAs to report suspected evidence of money laundering or face five years in jail.

The agency will target crime barons where the police believe no criminal prosecution is possible.

The body estimates that 400 crime barons across the UK hold criminal assets worth £440m, with around £220m in the hands of just 39 people.

The new act places the burden of proof on the asset holder to show that he got the asset lawfully. Cases are held in magistrates courts and are subject to the lower civil burden of proof – the balance of probabilities – rather than the stricter criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt.

Assets Recovery Agency director Jane Earl says: “We are targeting people who hold assets and have no way of demonstrating how they acquired them or cannot show that they paid the tax they should have. The Proceeds of Crime Act requires professionals to report evidence of money laundering if they come across it.”

Franklin Financial Services partner Neil Franklin says: “This is another part of this whistleblowing culture that is developing. The FSA can come in and close me down, Customs & Excise can force entry. For most IFAs, this is just another agency.”

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