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Proceeds of crime Services

Proceeds of crime

Extension of moratorium periods

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Legal 500 UK 2021

Since January 2018 UK law enforcement can seek to freeze property situated in the UK for up to six months because it is the subject of an investigation. The threshold enabling a Crown Court judge to impose a freeze called a “moratorium period”, is low.

There are three conditions. A suspicious activity report (SAR) was made about the property by for example, a financial institution, to the National Crime Agency. Second either it or another law enforcement agency wishes to investigate the provenance of this property and seeks time in order to do so. Third that the investigation is being conducted diligently.

Obtaining a moratorium is therefore relatively easy. The existence of a SAR and a consequent investigation alone is almost sufficient. The Act however imposes safeguards which create opportunities for resistance. Corker Binning has already gained substantial experience in opposing applications for a moratorium. Grounds for opposition have included;-

(a) There is no investigation occurring by the applicant UK law enforcement agency. In reality the moratorium is sought to enable a foreign agency to investigate.

(b) The applicant agency has failed to disclose sufficient information about its alleged investigation to satisfy the court that it is being conducted diligently

(c) The application is unreasonable because the agency has already had sufficient opportunity to investigate

Opposing applications for moratoria is often important because they can provide law enforcement with an vital opportunity to prepare applications for more invasive asset freezing orders and investigations. A successful moratorium application can metastasize into an application for an indefinite restraint order or a two year asset freezing order.