SFO Owed £46m In Unpaid Fines - 50% Of Confiscations Unpaid In Last Three Years

Cause For Concern Say Specialist Lawyers At Irwin Mitchell


David Shirt, Press Officer | 0161 838 3094

Despite investing in and substantially enlarging its Proceeds of Crime Division, the SFO has revealed it is currently owed £46.1 million from unpaid confiscation orders made in the last three years, where the date for payment has now expired.
Responding to a FOI request made by law firm Irwin Mitchell, the SFO revealed that in the period 1 July 2012 to 1 July 2015, it had obtained 43 confiscation orders, with 21 orders (just under 50%) remaining unpaid in full or in part following the expiry date for payment. As a result the SFO has started enforcement proceedings in fourteen cases and in eight of the twenty one orders that remain unpaid the courts have activated a default sentence.
The SFO has also revealed that of these 21 outstanding orders, three are classified as “unable to progress” including one case in which this is due to “hidden assets”. This case alone represented £34.7 million of the outstanding total of £46.1 million.  

Expert Opinion
“The figures speak for themselves. It is incredibly difficult for the SFO to investigate, prosecute and obtain convictions in these cases so it is disappointing that when it does it has to incur more public funds to embark on enforcement proceedings to compel payment of confiscation orders in just around 50% of cases. Our FOI request reveal that of the 43 orders over the period, the total amount paid to date has been £22.7 million, which is not an insignificant amount but if you consider the estimated cost of fraud to the UK economy is around £50bn a year, it is unfortunately a low sum. “Hidden assets” obviously make the situation much more tricky, but the SFO might be able to overcome this working with other law enforcers or receivers."
Sarah Wallace, Partner

On the positive side however, the FOI request also revealed greater success in recovering prosecution costs. During the period 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2015, twenty one prosecution costs orders were imposed. Of this twenty one, twelve were unpaid in full or in part at 31 March 2015 and three had expired and had an outstanding balance. The value that remained outstanding at 31 March was £469,312. In relation to costs, however, since March 2015, two of the expired orders have been paid in full leaving a balance of £170,000 currently.