A couple of weeks ago someone sent me a link to a heart-warming story of corruption, money laundering and revenge. Back in 2005, Sharon Millard of Wolverhampton was sent to prison for six months after being found guilty of laundering £97,537 through her bank accounts for her daughter’s dodgy boyfriend. She was also served with a confiscation order for £51,000, but after paying back just £5,000 she said that she had no more money. And I daresay she thought that that was that. What she didn’t count on was the dogged determination of the West Midlands Police, who reviewed her file last year – and discovered that the poverty-stricken Ms Millard had somehow paid off her mortgage and was now sitting on tens of thousands of pounds in equity. They served her with a court order restricting her financial dealings (in case her assets should mysteriously go walkabout again), and on 12 March 2015 a court ordered her to repay the outstanding £46,000 or go back to prison for another eighteen months. And of course, even if she does serve the extra time, the debt will simply be waiting for her on release – which will make for a touching scene outside the prison gates.
I will admit that I didn’t realise that the police were so tenacious with confiscation orders, and I am very impressed and mightily encouraged. As explained by Detective Constable Yvonne Barwani: “We’re determined offenders can’t profit from crime and we never write off PoCA debts – and as this case shows we can come knocking at any time, even years after an offence, to recover outstanding money. We routinely revisit such cases, examining new intelligence and delving into the person’s finances to see if they’ve come into any money.” Often people will ask me whether I think our AML efforts are bearing fruit and whether we’re actually hurting the criminals at all, and next time they ask I shall smile sweetly and say, “Let me tell you about this nice lady from Wolverhampton…”