Cops to let the private sector chase after cybercrims' assets
Standard of proof apparently much lower in civil courts, say plod
The City of London Police is piloting a scheme to allow the private sector to chase after miscreants in civil courts in return for a share of the loot.
The scheme, which is set to run for two years, has been launched explicitly because of the lower standard of proof necessary for the recovery of assets in civil courts.
City coppers from the Economic Crime Directorate said they believe partnering with the private sector will speed up the process of identifying and seizing the assets of cybercriminals and getting those assets returned to the victims.
While the asset-recovery process will be undertaken in civil courts by specialist firms and solicitors, the police will at the same time continue with their own criminal investigations. The cops will have passed to the the details of suspects to the legal folk.
The Guardian reported that the prominent law firm Mischon de Reya will be leading the pilot.
Quoting Katie Wheatley, the joint head of criminal law at London firm Bindmans, the Guardian reported that concerns about the scheme focused on the distinct differences between the standards of proof necessary in civil and criminal courts.
"What evidence would they be using to strip somebody of their assets? If a criminal prosecution has failed, well OK, the burden of proof is slightly different," said Wheatley, "but you still have to wonder whether evidence that has been rejected by a criminal court ought to be the first port of call for a civil forfeiture or a civil confiscation order.”
According to the cops' own statement, this involvement will mean that, in “selected cases, [the firm] will take on responsibility to identify and recover assets for victims of fraud and financial crime using civil asset recovery litigation.”
Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall, the City of London Police’s operational lead for the pilot said: "We're looking to use the private sector's ability and expertise to take back these assets using civil litigation whilst freeing up time for our officers to concentrate on building the criminal cases against those individuals and groups."
The approach is intended to complement the recovery of criminal of assets by law enforcement under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). Currently it is necessary to convict cybercriminals before attempting to collect their assets, although the cops believe that delays in this process can provide criminals with the room to hide their ill-gotten gains. ®