NEW LAWS to allow the seizure of assets of suspected criminals will not apply to property or cash obtained more than 12 years ago.
Under the Proceeds of Crime Bill, published by the Home Office yesterday, an agency will be set up to investigate criminals and in some cases seize their assets even when the suspect has not been convicted of a significant offence. Law enforcement officers will use the new powers to target notable criminals - the so-called "untouchables" - whom the police have found impossible to prosecute.
Intelligence officers have identified about 400 crime bosses in the UK whose wealth adds up to pounds 440m, about half of which is owned by 39 people.
An estimated 2 per cent of the UK's gross domestic product of pounds 18bn comes from crime. The drugs underworld produces about half. The Home Office hopes to recover pounds 60m a year via the courts by 2004, compared to the pounds 25m now being confiscated.
Under the new civil recovery scheme, a team of investigators, lawyers and accountants, to be called the Assets Recovery Agency, will be able to seize the money and property of suspected criminals through the High Court if they can establish that …