Dirty Assets

Experiences, reflections, and lessons learnt from a decade of legislation on criminal money laundering and terrorism financing

Alongside conventional policing responses to organised crime and corruption, there is an increasing focus on the accumulated financial assets of those engaged in criminal activity, as embodied in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, following the financial trails of terrorists gaining prominence post-9/11.

The approaches are set out in a range of legislation (the Terrorism Act 2000, the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, and the Terrorist Asset Freezing Act 2010) and involve an emphasis on intelligence gathering as much as the negation of the value of criminal enterprise.

"The government intends to deny criminals the proceeds of their crimes, and thereby reassure the public that crime does not pay. However, the process for confiscating criminals’ assets is not working well enough. While the government has not specified a target, only about 26p in an estimated £100 of criminal proceeds was actually confiscated in 2012-13.

"The lack of coherent strategic direction and agreed success measures, compounded by weak accountability and a flawed incentive scheme, is the fundamental problem. This is combined with poor performance and cost information, lack of knowledge, outdated ICT systems, data errors and ineffective sanctions. Overall such problems mean that the confiscation order process, which we estimate costs more than £100 million a year, is not value for money."

— National Audit Office (2013)