The team attacking the financial assets of organised criminals and recovering over £12 million from crime over the last year
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Since April 2020, specialist investigators in the Economic and Cyber Crime Section, as well as investigators based around the districts of Greater Manchester, have obtained Court orders valued at nearly £11,000,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Just short of £2,000,000 has been obtained as a result of Confiscation Orders following a conviction from an acquisitive offence, and around £9,000,000 has been forfeited under Civil Recovery Legislation.
Additionally, a further £1,500,000 has been recovered from bank accounts and returned directly to the victims of crime, thanks to early intervention by the Fraud Triage Desk.
Specialist team members from the Economic and Cyber Crime Section have also seized cash and assets worth approximately £7.5 million in the last year, and frozen bank balances totalling £3.5 million in preparation for upcoming forfeiture hearings.
The Economic and Cyber Crime Section is responsible for not only investigating fraud and money laundering associated with organised crime, but also the freezing and seizing of assets believed to have been gained through, or intended for use in criminal activity. They are also tasked with finding out where large sums of cash, often uncovered in stop and searches or during warrants carried out by other units, comes from, and if, on the balance of probability, it came from crime.
Where some of the money came from, and where it goes...
Some of the cases investigated by the unit last year include;
- An exhaustive investigation into three companies, selling tokens to stream live pornographic shows on websites in their control that were freely available elsewhere. It was believed that they were being used to launder criminal proceeds.
- The seizure of cash discovered hidden in a vehicle stopped on the M62.
- The confiscation of over £100,000 after a man fraudulently claimed tax credits and conspired to supply cocaine.
As part of the Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme run by the Home Office, some of the funds recovered will be returned to Greater Manchester Police, to help pay for further asset recovery work, or fund community projects. In 2020-21, a total of over £4.5 million will be returned to GMP.
Some of the community projects that have bid for a portion of this funding and received it, include Project Cheer in Manchester, which aims to provide kindness and festive cheer to the homeless, the We Stand Together campaign which aims to fight intolerance and promote a sense of community, as well as the Wigan Youth Zone.
Volunteer run Scam Busters, which operates within GMP as part of the Economic and Cyber Crime Section, also receives a fraction of the funds. Scam Busters is staffed by volunteers, who contact older victims of crime from a peer perspective, to give advice and support. Since its inception in 2018 they have contacted over 7,000 victims of fraud, and of those contacted, there have only been two repeat victims.
Financial Investigations Manager, Ben Evans of the Economic and Cyber Crime Section said, "This represents our most successful year to date in terms of asset recovery and is especially outstanding considering the challenges faced due to the COVID pandemic.
"The officers and staff involved in asset recovery have worked hard under difficult circumstances and the figures show just how hard they have worked and how well they have performed.
"Although we're very pleased with these results, we are acutely aware that fighting Economic and Cyber Crime is relentless. We will continue to work diligently to remove criminal proceeds from the hands of those who seek to profit from criminality. Asset recovery legislation allows us to disrupt criminal enterprises, deter people from becoming involved in crime and recompense victims and communities blighted by criminality."
Who makes up the team?
Financial Investigations Manager, Ben Evans:
Ben Evans started in the Economic and Cyber Crime Section in 2013.
His role as Financial Investigations Manager, puts him in charge of the confiscators and financial investigators from the Serious Crime Division and those based around the districts of Greater Manchester. There are nine staff members based in Nexus House, and one confiscator in each district, except for central Manchester where there are two.
Ben isn't a police officer, he's GMP staff, and oversees all the confiscation cases that are being worked on across the force, providing assistance and advice where necessary.
Within the Economic and Cyber Crime section, it's a mix of police officers and police staff, who are qualified to investigate, seize assets and conduct confiscations.
Often, the section makes a £1 nominal confiscation order - which may seem like nothing compared to the crime they're dealing with. But it means the team can revisit that order later down the line, and take more money off offenders that they couldn't get at the time.
Detective Constable Sarah Langley:
Sarah is an investigator on the cash seizure team at the Section, and came in originally as part of the fraud investigation team nine years ago. Before that, she was in a uniform role.
Sarah is responsible for taking seized assets or cash gathered as part of warrants and raids that have taken place around Greater Manchester, investigating where the money comes from (and its intended use) before presenting the case to the court.
The cash seizure team work on the balance of probability, and they only have to prove that it is more likely than not that the money seized has come from, or is intended for use in crime. And if Sarah determines this, she then looks to make sure whoever it was taken from, doesn't get it back.
Detective Inspector Iqbal Ahmed:
Iqbal is a relatively new member of the Economic and Cyber Crime Section, joining 18 months ago from CID.
He is currently in charge of two investigation syndicates within the section, each made up of one Detective Sergeant, and 10 officers.
They look at a mix of proactive and reactive investigations targeting organised criminals and frauds, and do a lot of surveillance work to catch them in the act, particularly when it comes to money laundering, and execute warrants.