Back in January 2016, the UK government launched an enquiry into “how effectively the measures introduced in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, to deprive criminals of any benefit from their crimes, are working [and in particular to] assess the operation of confiscation orders, which are the main mechanism through which this policy is implemented”. Written submissions were invited, and they are now being presented and considered; you can follow the progress of the enquiry via its dedicated webpage.
The intention of the enquiry – as stated by the Chair of the Committee, Keith Vaz MP, at the outset – is to address the finding that “around half of those given confiscation orders by the Serious Fraud Office in the last three years have failed to pay, and millions of pounds are still owed by dozens of criminals” and for a report to be published “by the summer”. The first evidence session was held on 8 March 2016, when legal experts and academics went before the Home Affairs Committee as “witnesses”. You can watch it here. Next up, on 3 May 2016, were representatives from the Serious Fraud Office, Transparency International and industry. You can watch that here. On 18 May 2016 we heard from the City of London Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the National Crime Agency – here for the video, and here for the transcript.
Looking specifically at the evidence given by Donald Toon of the NCA, I felt a certain sympathy for the man. I am often asked – in gentle, cushioned terms, but the underlying question is clear – whether I’m wasting my time: whether AML is having any effect at all. And they asked Mr Toon the same: “When you get to work in the morning, do you think, ‘We’re making progress here’, or, ‘We’re being overwhelmed because there is so much we have to deal with’?” And Mr Toon replied: “I suppose I would characterise the vision as, ‘We are making some progress’.” I feel much the same. I always say that when it comes to battling money laundering we have two options: do something, or do nothing. I’m not prepared to do nothing, so I am doing something, which leads – as Mr Toon suggests – to some progress. This proceeds of crime enquiry may lead to more.