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The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“POCA”) creates a set of very broadly defined money laundering offences, which are increasingly alleged by the police (or other law enforcement authorities, such as the FCA, HMRC, and the SFO) either in addition to other offences or in their own right. The effect of its principal sections, 327 (concealing etc), 328 (arrangements) and 329 (acquisition, use and possession) is that it is usually an offence to do almost anything with ‘criminal property’, which here means any money or other assets that are or represent (even only in part) the proceeds of a crime committed anywhere in the world by anybody.
Importantly, these offences are committed not only where a person has knowledge that the assets come from crime, but also where he or she merely suspects that this is the case. The courts have also made clear that the authorities do not have to specify the original crime, and can even pursue people whose alleged conduct took place entirely abroad. The unfortunate impact is that allegations are routinely made against people and businesses who had no criminal intent at all.
BCL provides expert advice to individuals and businesses who either find themselves under investigation, or are seeking to minimize their risks under the law (for the latter, see also our separate section on Anti-Money Laundering). In many cases, our instruction comes from or includes dealing with related issues such as a frozen bank account or the seizure of cash or cheques (on which see our separate section on the Proceeds of Crime).
Our expert team of lawyers includes a past Chair of The Law Society’s Money Laundering Task Force, who contributed to the Law Society’s guidance on money laundering, and has provided expert witness assistance to an overseas common law government in relation to the scope and impact of UK Anti-Money Laundering legislation. Two of our lawyers are co-authors of Money Laundering Law and Regulation: A Practical Guide, published by Oxford University Press.