Proceeds of Crime – Prosecuting Authorities Have Long Memories

Prosecuting authorities have long memories and those who profit from crime can be pursued for their ill-gotten gains for many years after they have otherwise paid their debt to society. One case concerned a tax fraudster who had still only paid a fraction of a £6.25 million confiscation order 17 years after he was convicted.

The man had long ago completed an eight-year prison sentence imposed in 2000 for his involvement in a £20 million VAT missing trader fraud. He had, however, paid only £354,407 towards satisfying the confiscation order made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. In those circumstances the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was, in 2016, granted a warrant by a magistrate, committing the man to prison for 2,479 days in respect of his failure to pay the full amount.

In challenging the warrant before the High Court, the man argued that the delay of so many years in pursuing him for the debt breached his human right to a fair hearing and that jailing him now would be unfair. In dismissing his complaints, however, the Court found that no criticism could properly be made of the CPS.

Although he was now aged 64 and a widower, there was no evidence that he would suffer any greater hardship from being imprisoned now, rather than years ago, and he was himself the principal contributor towards the delay. He had done nothing at all to satisfy the order and had spent the whole of his time since being released from custody abroad, without alerting the authorities to his whereabouts.