POCA Success: £68k unfrozen from two NatWest bank accounts

David Bloom

21 December 2023

In February 2023, a Greek national had her current and savings accounts at NatWest frozen under Part 5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Between February and June 2023, she tried without success to explain to the police’s financial investigator the source of the £68,000 frozen funds. We were instructed in September 2023, after the police applied to have the full credit balance forfeited.

In 2022, our client became aware that sterling banknotes were being withdrawn from circulation by the Bank of England. She was in the process of depositing and exchanging old paper notes for new polymer banknotes when NatWest became suspicious and restricted her accounts.

Her case was that she distrusted banks and preferred to keep most of her savings (around £120,000), accrued from her earnings and gifted to her by family members, at home but wanted to retain legal tender and so needed to exchange the old banknotes.

Instruction of Experts

We instructed a renowned academic to prepare an expert report on Greek cultural distrust of banking institutions and familial financial support that supported our client’s contentions, including that this practice of ‘private guarding’ is prevalent in Greek culture.

We obtained extensive banking material, which the police had not chosen to disclose as part of their forfeiture application, which debunked their assertions that our client held multiple suspicious additional bank accounts. In fact, very careful scrutiny of this material revealed, as she had maintained, that she had been the victim of identity theft and bank accounts had been opened in her name.

The Outcome

With our assistance, our client provided overwhelming evidence of what she had done and why, and the origins of the frozen funds. As a result, in December 2023, the police applied to have the account freezing order set aside, much to our client’s delight.

David Bloom assisted by Allison Hochhalter of Sonn Macmillan Walker instructed Barnaby Hone of 5 St Andrew’s Hill Chambers.

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