It is widely thought that proceedings under the Proceeds of ‘Crime’ Act, such as confiscation, are intended to obtain the money someone makes from committing a crime. So, the thinking goes, if a person is convicted of fraud having made £100,000 from the crime, then those funds can be confiscated by the courts.

While this basic premise is correct, UK money laundering laws are far broader in their application and are increasingly being used by UK authorities in innovative ways. Real estate matters in particular are receiving attention from UK local authorities.

For example, one innovative local authority has appointed surveyors to determine the increase in property value following illegal tree pruning and felling. The result, in addition to relatively nominal fines, is that courts have imposed significant – and some would argue punitive – confiscation orders.

Case 1 – The Ole Oak Tree…

The first case involves a 42-foot oak tree covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) located in the back-garden of a Mr Samuel Wilson’s home in Canford Cliffs, Dorset.

A TPO is an order made by a local authority to protect trees and woodland. A person who contravenes a TPO is guilty of a criminal offence, and if found guilty, can expect to pay a fine of up to £20,000.

In 2016, Mr Wilson decided to cut a number of branches off the oak, which was casting a shadow over a Juliet balcony he had recently added to his £1 million home. After his neighbour contacted the local authority, Mr Wilson was prosecuted for cutting branches from the tree in violation of the TPO. He pleaded guilty to causing willful damage to a protected tree and was fined £1,200.

Following conviction, Poole Borough Council pursued Mr Wilson in confiscation proceedings. The council’s valuation experts said cutting the tree’s branches increased Mr Wilson’s home value by £21,000.

Three years after the original conviction, Mr Wilson was ordered to pay £15,000 in legal costs plus the £21,000 additional home value under UK money laundering confiscation provisions.

Activity     Pruning of one oak tree
Fine       £1,200
Costs   £15,000
Confiscation    £21,000
TOTAL COST £37,200 (plus one criminal conviction)

Click here to read the full GT Alert, which includes additional cases of confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

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Photo of Gareth Hall Gareth Hall

Gareth Hall has a range of experience representing clients throughout special investigations and criminal litigation. He has represented individuals subject to investigations conducted by the National Crime Agency (NCA), Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) for a…

Gareth Hall has a range of experience representing clients throughout special investigations and criminal litigation. He has represented individuals subject to investigations conducted by the National Crime Agency (NCA), Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) for a range of matters including complex conspiracies, fraud, money laundering and bribery. Gareth also has higher rights of audience and has appeared as an advocate, representing individuals in the Crown Court.

Photo of Anne-Marie Ottaway Anne-Marie Ottaway

Anne-Marie Ottaway focuses on white collar and economic crime and government and internal investigations. Acknowledged for her criminal defence work, Anne-Marie provides clients with advice on all aspects of investigations relating to allegations of fraud, bribery, and corruption, as well as providing advice…

Anne-Marie Ottaway focuses on white collar and economic crime and government and internal investigations. Acknowledged for her criminal defence work, Anne-Marie provides clients with advice on all aspects of investigations relating to allegations of fraud, bribery, and corruption, as well as providing advice in respect of the implementation of effective anti-fraud, bribery and corruption compliance programmes and related anti-money laundering issues. She is recognized by Chambers & Partners for her “growing reputation for defending corporate clients subject to fraud and bribery allegations.”

Photo of Barry Vitou Barry Vitou

Barry Vitou is Co-Chair of the Global White Collar Criminal Defense Practice and head of London’s White Collar Defense & Special Investigations Practice, advising corporations and individuals in connection with compliance, pre-investigations, investigations, and prosecutions conducted by numerous law enforcement agencies. Barry frequently…

Barry Vitou is Co-Chair of the Global White Collar Criminal Defense Practice and head of London’s White Collar Defense & Special Investigations Practice, advising corporations and individuals in connection with compliance, pre-investigations, investigations, and prosecutions conducted by numerous law enforcement agencies. Barry frequently represents clients under investigation by U.K. and U.S. law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, including the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the Financial Conduct Authority, the Information Commissioner’s Office, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Barry regularly appears on television and radio, discussing the topics of corruption, money laundering, and the UK Bribery Act.