Cash forfeiture success: police return £691k
Following a covert operation on an Albanian Organised Crime Group in October 2016, police seized £750k from the courier and business premises of our client, a well-established money service business (MSB).
No criminal charges were laid against our client or its owner but in February 2018 police made a cash forfeiture application to Westminster Magistrates’ Court for £689k, the balance having been returned to following our representations. The contested hearing was due to be heard over the course of a week in April 2019 and the police had instructed an expert in the operation of MSBs. Kennedy Talbot QC was instructed by us and provided invaluable advice in the preparation of our client’s response.
In short, our client’s case was that whilst the cash may have been the proceeds of crime, it ceased to be ‘recoverable’ under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 because it had been purchased wholesale in good faith during the course of the company’s usual business activities and with no knowledge of its tainted origins. This defence relied on the little used statutory exception that means funds are not traceable into the hands of the bona fide purchaser for value without notice.
In mid-January 2019, we served our client’s 30-page witness statement and over 700 pages of supporting material. We meticulously documented the business operation and transactions, including, of most relevance, those concerning the seized cash. We reviewed tens of thousands of pages of KYC documents and banking and transaction records meaning we were able to present a comprehensive audit trail of the cash purchases that comprised the seized cash.
Within three weeks of receipt of our case, the police withdrew their forfeiture application and returned our client’s cash. Each party has agreed to bear its own costs.
The case was prepared by David Bloom and David Sonn, assisted by Helena Williams and Natasha Lake. Kennedy Talbot QC of 33 Chancery Lane was instructed.