THE total sum of money seized from Scotland's criminal gangs through the Proceeds of Crime Act has fallen to a four-year low.
A total of 5.5 million was confiscated in 2009-10, down from over 6.3m the previous year.
The Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency SCDEA, and Scotland's police forces, want to make organised crime, such as drug dealing, prostitution and human trafficking, less profitable and
less attractive to young people who see local villains drive expensive cars and live in big houses.
In 2009-10, Lothian and Borders Police referred 20m worth of property to the Crown Office – ten times higher than in previous years – as proceeds of crime. However, the amount that will ultimately be seized after the legal process will inevitably be whittled down over the next couple of years, as offenders find alternative methods of laundering dirty money.
Richard Baker, Scottish Labour's justice spokesman, criticised justice secretary Kenny MacAskill:
"One of the best ways to hit criminals is in the pocket and while Mr MacAskill talks a good game on cracking down on gangsters, these figures show he is failing to deliver the goods.
"There are serious questions for Kenny MacAskill. What went wrong last year? Is he using every weapon at his disposal? How will he ensure we maximise the cash we claw back next year?
"I am in no doubt if the Gartcosh 'crime campus' was up and running by now we would be reaping the benefits of Scotland's leading crime-fighters working together to tackle serious and organised head on."
Gartcosh will bring 1,100 members of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Scottish Police Services Authority forensic service, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, and HM Revenue and Customs, all under one roof to tackle organised crime.
It was due to be completed this year, but now will not be operational until 2012.
Police have had success using the Civil Recovery Unit to target ill-gotten gains. Unlike the Proceeds of Crime Act, it does not require a criminal conviction, only a balance of probabilities in the civil courts that the money was made through crime.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "It is simply wrong to assert that the cash being seized from criminals is going down, barely two months after the Civil Recovery Unit seized 6.6m from Russian businessman (Anatoly Kazachkov]."
A Crown Office spokesman said:
"The POCA legislation is about more than recovering money, as it allows for significant disruption of the operation of organised crime groups by affecting their ability to finance and benefit from criminal activities."
Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton, secretary of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland's crime business area, said: "Although any apparent reduction in seizures is a matter for concern, there is significant year-to-year variation and overall performance should be judged over the longer term."
INS AND OUTS OF ASSET SEIZURES
AMOUNT seized through Proceeds of Crime legislation in 2009-10: 5,510,558
Reduction compared with the previous year: 821,523
Amount seized from a Russian though the Civil Recovery Unit: 6.6 million
Total recovered by Crown Office and Civil Recovery Unit since 2003: 33m
Cost of building Scotland's new Crime Campus: 82m
Amount referred to the Crown by Scottish police forces in 2009-10: 30m