Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We'll Never Seize PS1.3bn Owed by Crime Bosses, Says Head of 'British FBI' EXCLUSIVE; Wealth Owed by Mr Bigs of Crime 'Has Vanished Abroad'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We'll Never Seize PS1.3bn Owed by Crime Bosses, Says Head of 'British FBI' EXCLUSIVE; Wealth Owed by Mr Bigs of Crime 'Has Vanished Abroad'

Article excerpt

Byline: Martin Bentham Home Affairs Editor

THE law enforcement body which spearheads Britain's fight against organised crime warned today that more than PS1.3 billion owed by criminal Mr Bigs and other offenders is unlikely ever to be recovered.

The National Crime Agency, dubbed "Britain's FBI", said it believed that only about PS124 million of the PS1.46 billion of confiscation order debts owed to the taxpayer by convicted criminals could be seized.

It said the rest of the money had vanished abroad or related to other debts the offenders lacked the assets to repay. Large sums in interest charges would also never be paid.

The admission, by the NCA's director general Keith Bristow, will fuel the debate about the effectiveness of efforts to force the crime world's "Mr Bigs" to repay illegal profits.

It follows a warning by the National Audit Office that only 26p of every PS100 worth of confiscation orders imposed by the courts is being taken back from criminals. The Commons public accounts committee has also attacked law enforcers' "rubbish" performance at recovering assets.

MPs on the home affairs committee, which was questioning Mr Bristow in Parliament today, added to the pressure, calling on the NCA to make "drastic improvements" Continued on Page 4 Continued from Page 1 in its efforts to claw back criminal profits. The committee said that the PS22.5 million seized in the first year of the agency's existence did not justify its PS500 million budget.

Mr Bristow insisted, however, that "really impressive" work was taking place to deprive criminals of their illicit gains and disrupt their ability to commit further offences. He conceded the PS124 million now thought to be recoverable was "quite a low number", but said the reason was that much of the official debt figure related to assets which did not exist in reality.

"Out of all the tens of millions that are owed, a lot of which doesn't exist, we think that there's about PS124 million of assets that could be enforced against and that's what we are targeting," he told the Evening Standard.

"The outstanding debt on unenforced confiscation orders has been estimated by HM Courts Service as worth PS1. …

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