|Posted on July 28, 2012 at 1:55 PM|
A RECORD £100 million in cash and assets has been seized from gangland criminals as a result of new tactics being deployed by Scotland's biggest police force.
Strathclyde Police is now using every officer to target ill-gotten gains rather than simply using specialists.
The force said a sharper focus on the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) means all officers, including beat bobbies, are seizing increasing amounts of dirty money.
It means officers are now looking for and questioning suspects about cash found, regardless of the crime or offence they are called out to.
And a new joint approach with HMRC and the Crown Office means that by scrutinising tax records they are able to tackle the kingpins who have evaded the law for years.
Working with the private and public sector, by sharing information and advice, police have also been able to support groups in standing up to criminals and denying their attempts to take on multimillion-pound contracts.
Ruaridh Nicholson, Assistant Chief Constable at Strathclyde Police, said: "In the first quarter of this year we seized over £9m in cash seizures, assets and expedited referrals. We've also denied contracts to serious organised crime just short of £6m.
"The £9m figure is not just high for a quarter – it's absolutely record figures. In the three years before that we restrained – in terms of assets, cash seizures and expedited referrals [to pursue assets under civil proceedings] – £56m. When you add that to the £37m we have prevented in contracts in that time, the overall figure is well over £100 million that we're denying.
"We firmly believe using POCA legislation and denial of legitimate business has the biggest possible influence on organised crime. We see evidence of people who have been involved at a very high level actually having to go out and get legitimate work at a very low level.
"That is a very positive sign the tactics we're using are working really well. [Criminals are] being brought down to that level where they no longer have their fancy cars and their henchmen around them and they've no longer got control of territory and money, and have to go out and get employment and pay tax."
Pursuing criminals' money under the legislation has had additional benefits. Earlier this year the force found an unprecedented 83 firearms in one house.
Detective Chief Superintendent John Cuddihy said: "In one cash seizure using POCA earlier this year we discovered 83 firearms in a house. This is an unprecedented seizure. We're not saying there's lots of houses here with guns lying about. But through POCA we're managing to remove firearms from the clutches of serious organised crime.
"One round of 9mm ammunition could very easily be used in a category A murder, so the price of a bullet goes from the original price to a £1.2million investigation into a gangland shooting. More importantly we're talking about someone potentially losing their life, so if we've got the ability to remove that ammunition then we're into violence suppression and murder suppression."
Earlier this year the Crown Office revealed more than £10.5m worth of proceeds of crime was recovered in the past year in Scotland. In total the amount secured – not just seized – since the start of POCA in 2003 is almost £70m.
Anthony Kearney, 46, and 44-year-old Donna McCafferty had almost £1m seized under POCA last year. In 2008, they admitted claiming housing benefit when they had more than £330,000 in offshore accounts.
In October last year the £217,000 Lennoxtown home of murdered gangster Kevin "Gerbil" Carroll was seized under POCA because Carroll obtained it "through his involvement in organised crime, violence, drug dealing and his obtaining of mortgages by fraud". The villa will be sold and the cash given to good causes.
Earlier this month convicted sex trafficker Stephen Craig, 35, from Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, was ordered to pay £45,000 under POCA.
Craig, who controlled a prostitution network across the UK, was jailed for three years and four months in October last year for arranging travel, accommodation and advertising for 14 women.
Detective Chief Inspector David Duncan, who works on serious organised crime at Strathclyde, said: "It's about cultural change. Organised crime has become part of our routine business for all officers. They've got an understanding of who is criminally active in their communities and what tools are available to them to tackle that.
"We've done training and seminars and built closer relationships between specialised units and divisional officers. All our officers now have a real understanding of the legislation. We've done a lot of work in the background to drive this down to divisional level so the cop on ground knows what their powers are, what questions to ask and how to take money off criminals."
Categories: Police Scotland