The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 contains the money laundering offences. The act criminalises the use of criminal property obtained from criminal conduct. Criminal property is property which represents profit from criminal conduct. It includes money, shares and any property. Examples are the proceeds of tax evasion, the receipt of a bribe and benefits to a business from failing to comply with the law.
Criminal conduct is conduct which is a crime in the UK, or would be if committed there.
It is an offence to conceal, convert, disguise or transfer criminal property or to use or possess criminal property. This means that anyone who has come into contact with the proceeds of crime (whether knowingly or not) may be committing an offence.
Knowingly entering into an arrangement which helps another to control criminal property is also an offence.
Someone can get a defence to any money laundering charges by informing the police or the suspicious transaction they have gotten themselves involved in.
The maximum sentence for the money laundering offences is 14 years in jail. The starting point is determined according to a number of factors. The amount of money involved is an important one. The seriousness of the offence increases as the amount of money involved increases. How many money laundering transactions occurred and whether drugs were involved are also taken into consideration. We can use these factors to successfully mitigate sentences.
The proceedings were designed to penalise those who lead criminal lifestyles but escape criminal conviction. These can be either on a civil or criminal basis. The proceedings have the aim of recovering all the profit from a criminal enterprise, but we have found that often only a fraction of the total profit is recovered.
Proceedings will be on a civil basis where someone has had items seized by the police because they suspect them to be the proceeds of crime. No criminal charges need be brought. Something might be seized by police after an arrest or when carrying out a warrant.
A statement of means listing all assets must be made by the defendant and 4 weeks later the police will serve a list of assumptions which must be disproved. An example is an assumption that a car was bought with drug money. Disproving these assumptions takes a proactive approach. We work hard with our clients to gather together information from analysing their accounts or from eye-witnesses.
When someone is convicted of any criminal offence, proceedings will be on a criminal basis. There is also the potential for new money laundering charges to be brought. This is because the ‘criminal conduct' element is much easier to prove after conviction.
At the hearing, the main question to be addressed is whether someone had a criminal lifestyle. Once all evidence has been put forward the judge will make his decision. If the judge decides someone to have had a criminal lifestyle, then a sum representing all the profit from this lifestyle can be ordered to be paid into court. If the judge cannot decide this, then in criminal proceedings a sum representing only the profit from the crime someone has been convicted of is ordered to be paid.
In either situation, all assets which are criminal property and represent the profit from crime may be seized. This can be troubling for the families of those convicted as important assets can be put under threat. The prospect of losing the family home can be very stressful.
At Mary Monson Solicitors we can protect assets such as these from the threat of seizure. We have links with expert forensic accountants and we can trace the origins of money and purchases made. We can protect important assets for you such as the family home and ensure that the people close to someone convicted do not have to share in their sentence.