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Asset Freezing & Forfeiture Orders

The Criminal Finances Act 2017 provides UK law enforcement with an array of new powers all designed to make it easier to freeze and forfeit property alleged to have been obtained in the context of criminal conduct allegedly committed anywhere. Such property is deemed to be “recoverable property”. An Asset Freezing Order, a precursor to an Asset Forfeiture Order, concerns one type of alleged recoverable property; credit balances held in any UK bank account. A magistrates court can order a freezing of the account for up to two years if there is a reasonable suspicion that the balance is recoverable. Then it can order forfeiture of the entire balance if it is satisfied that it was obtained through unlawful conduct or was intended for use in unlawful conduct.

This is new law. Corker Binning has already gained substantial experience in successfully opposing applications for freezing and forfeiture. Grounds for opposition have included;-

(a) A lack of analysis as to how the credit balance can be traced back to the alleged unlawful conduct. Thus it is not recoverable.

(b) No evidential basis for alleging that the credit balance was intended for use in unlawful conduct

(c) The owner of the credit balance obtained the money it represents in good faith and without suspicion that it constituted recoverable property

(d) A forfeiture order would be disproportionate and offend the European Convention on Human Rights

These orders are intended to be used by law enforcement to forfeit large sums of money without having to prosecute anyone and prove their guilt. They are thus relatively easy to obtain and require a careful strategy in order to defeat. Their usage is set to dramatically increase.

It is apparent that the National Crime Agency is advertising the availability of these orders to its foreign counterparts. This firm has already advised non UK clients based in Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Read David Corker’s article on account freezing and forfeiture orders here.



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  • Corker Binning is ranked in Band 1 of recommended firms for POCA Work & Asset Forfeiture by Chambers and Partners UK 2020.
  • In the Legal 500,  David CorkerPeter BinningAndrew SmithJessica Parker have been recognised as leading lawyers in Fraud – white-collar crime