Lord Advocate & Crown Office receive £100million annual funding. PROCEEDS OF CRIME legislation created in 2003 by the then Scottish Executive, has, according to claims made by Scotland’s Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in its latest 2012-2013 annual report on the activities of the Civil Recovery Unit, (CRU) netted around £80 million seized from criminals. However, legal observers have questioned the reliability of the figures provided in the report, which in some cases, relies on “questionable accounting”, ‘staged payments’ from crooked companies, and “speculative figures” relating to cases yet to be decided in the courts.
Unsurprisingly, a fact NOT DISCLOSED in the report is that the total asset seizures announced by the Crown Office yesterday, actually amount to much less than even 10% of the total running cost of the Crown Office over the past ten years, put at a staggering ONE BILLION POUNDS over the last decade, a cost which also includes MASSIVE bonus payments totalling HALF A MILLION POUNDS in just two years, to Crown Office staff and prosecutors.
In the past year, the Crown Office claims about £12m was taken from people involved in activities such as drug dealing, human trafficking and benefit fraud with around £8m of the 2012/13 total coming from convicted criminals. The remaining £4m comes from cash and assets seized through civil court orders. The Crown Office claimed the Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act 2002 had become a "powerful tool" against crime.
Solicitor General Lesley Thomson Solicitor General Lesley Thomson QC, who announced the figures, said: "By full use of the proceeds of crime legislation, law enforcement can strike at the very heart of criminality in Scotland to ensure that criminal networks big and small are disrupted and dismantled.
"My message is clear - if you try to make a profit from crime, the Crown will use this legislation to the maximum to take that profit from you and ensure it is put it to a much better use in communities across Scotland through the Scottish government's CashBack scheme."
However, the Solicitor General made no reference to the Bonus culture at the Crown Office which has richly rewarded those involved in prosecutions & asset recovery efforts over the years, reported by the media revealing payments totalling £580,000 to Crown Office staff. Media reports also revealed that former Lord Advocate from 2006-2011, Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC (born McPhilomy) received a taxpayer funded £28,000 ‘golden goodbye’ deal after leaving her job, reported HERE
Since the media report exposing Crown Office bonuses, the practice has been dropped in favour of inflated salaries and generous expenses allowances in an effort to get round further adverse publicity.
Over the last 10 years around £50m has been seized by the Crown Office's Serious and Organised Crime Division (SOCD), which deals with the confiscation of proceeds of crime following a conviction. The remaining £30.5m was secured by the Civil Recovery Unit, headed by Ruaraidh MacNiven, who formerly worked for Lord President Lord Hamilton.The CRU, which has been criticised in court by judges for providing dodgy evidence on previous occasions, can recover proceeds of crime through the civil courts without the need for a criminal conviction.
Commenting further on the figures released in the report, Lindsey Miller, head of the Crown Office's Serious and Organised Crime Division said the £80m that had been seized could otherwise have been reinvested in criminal enterprises.
She said : "We have not become complacent in our success. Crime evolves and we must evolve with it. In the last year alone, we have seen successful confiscation orders against people who have participated in all types of crime, including drug dealing, selling counterfeit goods, embezzlement, human trafficking and benefit fraud. We will continue to use our experience and expertise to maximise disruption to criminal enterprises."In the past financial year, around £4.3 million was netted from those involved in the so-called "black fish" cases, relating to large-scale undeclared landings of fish in the north of Scotland. Confiscation orders totalling £4,314,290 were made last year against a number of vessel skippers, as well as Shetland Catch Ltd and Fresh Catch Ltd.
James Mangan, 54, Robert Robb, 65, and Craig Hunter, 41, all members of an organised crime network involved in importing Class A drugs, which was unearthed by Strathclyde Police's Operation Trust have also been targeted for asset seizures.
The Civil Recovery Unit (CRU) will eventually recover £5.6m after Aberdeen-based drilling company Abbot Group Ltd accepted it had benefited from corrupt payments made in connection with a 2006 contract entered into by one of its overseas subsidiaries and an overseas oil and gas company. The money is to be paid in three stages to the end of March 2015.
Other examples of asset seizures include the home of gangland figure Kevin "Gerbil" Carroll, who was gunned down in a supermarket car park in 2010, although no reference is made to the fact the Crown Office failed to secure a conviction for the murder of Mr Carroll after a judge ruled the Crown had presented insufficient evidence in the case of an accused suspect.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill Eager as ever to comment on the Crown Office spin, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "Prosecutors and police are cracking down on organised crime and criminals have nowhere to hide.More than £12m has been confiscated from criminals last year, hitting them where it hurts - their wallets.
MacAskill continued : "Our communities are benefiting from the hard work of prosecutors and police putting ill-gotten gains to good use through our CashBack for Communities Programme, which invests crooks' cash in facilities and activities for our young people and their communities across the length and breadth of the country."
The Cashback for Communities scheme referred to by the Justice Secretary takes money recovered through proceeds of crime legislation and invests it in activities and facilities for young people at risk of turning to a life of crime. The Scottish Government claim more than £50m has been ploughed back into Scottish communities since Cashback began operating in 2007.