ALMOST £3.5 million of ‘dirty money’ from convicted criminals was seized over 12 months, including from a Coventry market trader who sold drugs from his stall.
The 39-year-old man was convicted of selling drugs from his Coventry market stall in 2017 and further investigated under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).
He was given a suspended prison sentence but police financial investigators were able to show he benefited from £68,000 and secured a confiscation order.
Further investigations by West Midlands Police’s economic crime unit resulted in nearly 150 court orders under POCA to claw back more than £3.4 million worth of cash or assets during 2019.
Crooks face a further jail term if they fail to pay up although the debt never goes away, with officers able to recover what is owed in the future.
The team, which has been expanded in the past year thanks to additional funding from David Jamieson, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, says it often undertakes delicate and detailed enquiries in the quest to prove complex cases.
Another case involved that of a 35-year-old man who was jailed for seven-and-a-half years for supplying drugs who had used aliases to open bank accounts. He made £115,000 from his criminal activities which should be paid back, the force added.
Head of the force’s economic crime unit, Jenny Birch, said: “We’re always conscious that convicted criminals, such as fraudsters or drug dealers, generate a significant financial benefit from their illegal activities.
“Although our work is painstaking and detailed to prove cash or assets like property or cars are linked to their criminality we are, and will remain focused on, doing all we can to ensure crime doesn’t pay.
“I am incredibly proud of my team which managed to bring to light millions of pounds worth of criminal money last year and shows the force’s enquiries into criminal behaviour don’t just end following a court conviction.
“This money can now be put to best use compensating the victims of the criminality or funding worthy initiatives both within WMP and our communities via the Asset Recovery and Active Citizens Fund.
“We will continue to do all we can to claw back other cash linked to criminals during 2020.”
Mr Jamieson said: “The Proceeds of Crime Act ensures that the money the police seize from criminals is put to good use keeping our communities safer.
“I’m pleased that in the past year we’ve allocated £160,000 to expand the work of the financial investigators who are helping us take more money from criminals to put to good use.
“Money seized by the new team is being put directly into helping those with substance misuse problems. The people who have been exploited and harmed by the criminals whose cash we have taken.
“My Active Citizens Fund is now in its fourth year and I’m continuing to see lots of excellent coming forward, improving lives and the communities they live in and care about.
“From sports clubs providing activities for young people, diverting them away from crime to Streetwatch groups, who support the police, tackle anti-social behaviour and provide reassurance to the public.”