Tax is being made a key element in the crackdown on crime which the Queen’s Speech last week spotlighted as one of the main planks in the government’s general election campaign.
Its draft Proceeds of Crime Bill will give a proposed National Confiscation Agency enhanced power to assess the tax liabilities of ‘persons in possession of suspected criminal assets’ as well as providing enhanced power to sue for their recovery of criminal assets.
Meanwhile the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, which home secretary Jack Straw plans to rush through before the election is called in later spring or early summer, will make Inland Revenue records and possibly Customs & Excise VAT records available to the agency and police.
Announced among a raft of 15 new measures, the sweeping powers are intended to make it impossible for crime barons and drug traffickers to hold or hide their ill-gotten gains and to target them without necessarily first having to obtain criminal convictions – while keeping on the right side of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The strategy has major implications for the accountancy profession, with enhanced powers for the Financial Services Authority to police compliance with the money laundering regulations.
The legislation will ‘unify and clarify the offences of money laundering’ and may go further in placing obligations on those who ought by reason of their positions to suspect laundering operations.
Straw hopes the measures ‘will also lead to enhancement of restraint and confiscation procedures in criminal cases and of the associated investigatory powers.’
In addition to changes in the law, he intends to formalise links between the police, Customs, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the Revenue and Whitehall departments and establish a recovered assets fund made up of confiscated and forfeited criminal assets.
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