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United Kingdom: Serious Organised Crime Agency Entitled to Civil Recovery of Money Laundering Proceeds

(Jan. 11, 2012) The

High Court of England and Wales recently ruled that the civil recovery process used by the Serious Organised Crime Agency to take possession of property obtained from the proceeds or profits of money laundering or drug dealing is lawful, even if there has been no criminal conviction in the case. The Court found that the lack of a criminal conviction was not conclusive evidence that the defendant did not commit the criminal act. For civil recovery orders, the Agency simply needed to satisfy the civil burden of proof – that, on the balance of probabilities, the property was derived from drug dealing or money laundering. In these cases, the Court held, it is not necessary to specify the offenses from which the money has been derived; the authorities may simply show the types of unlawful conduct that resulted in the proceeds. This, combined with a failure to account for how the property was obtained, is sufficient to make the property subject to a civil recovery order, according to the Court. (Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, c.29; Serious Organised Crime Agency v Hymans & Ors [2011] EWHC 3332 (QB).)