Mark Bowen and Vivien Cochrane acted for three clients and their companies whose company and personal accounts were made subject to freezing orders (AFO) following applications by the Metropolitan Police under 303Z1 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002(POCA).
An AFO is an order that prohibits the holder of a bank account from making any withdrawals or payments from the account. An order is granted if there is reasonable cause to believe that the monies held in the account have been derived from criminal conduct or is intended to be used for a criminal purpose. Following the orders being issued the police will investigate the accounts further and can then apply for forfeiture of the account(s). The legal threshold for an AFO to be granted is low and, as a result, the investigating authorities are increasingly using this part of the legislation against individuals and companies as investigative tool.
Our three clients – an international hedge fund manager and company owner, a hydroponics business and an international watch dealer – were also subject to a criminal investigation which ran alongside the AFO’s. The value of the monies held in the accounts was in excess of £1 million.
We were instructed by our respective clients following the AFO’s being issued against them. Following submission of representations challenging the applications, the relevant investigative teams agreed to withdraw both the criminal and POCA proceedings against our clients.
We are very happy for our clients that the proceedings have been resolved in their favour. Each faced the possibility of their respective businesses going bust if the Police had been successful in persuading the court to forfeit their accounts and each faced considerable stress and worry whilst the proceedings were ongoing.