LAWS to confiscate criminal assets do not go far enough as too many “Mr Bigs” have been able to keep their ill-gotten gains, it has been claimed.
Labour has joined former Scottish Police Federation chairman Les Gray in calling for the Proceeds of Crime Act to be strengthened to force known criminals to prove that their assets were obtained legally.
Currently, the burden of proof lies with the authorities, who have to demonstrate assets were obtained illegally.
Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald said there are not enough “forensic accountants” in the police with the tools to identify criminal assets, and complained that police civilian staff are being “squeezed” further by police reform.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Gray said: “We don’t see that many Mr Bigs, if any, actually losing that much money so to me there’s something missing just now.
“We need to make them more worried and concerned, and when we get them into court we need to make sure that the money that we are trying to seize is seized and not bartered away.”
Yesterday it emerged that over £80 million in assets have been recovered in the first decade of the Act, with £12 million seized in the last year alone from those involved in drug dealing, human trafficking and benefit fraud.
But Mr Macdonald said too many gangmasters have been able to “barter away” their confiscation orders in court and keep their assets.
He said: “We must shift the burden of proof onto the person who has assets that they cannot explain, and we must give forensic accountants in the police force the same kind of authority to pursue these matters as tax inspectors currently have.”
He added: “The biggest hits out of the £80 million are an engineering company, a drilling company, a fish processing company and Russian money that happened to be caught up in Glasgow Airport,” he said.
“None of them are the kind of big Scottish drug dealers that folk expect to be targeted by this legislation.
“In Scotland today there are over 100 criminal gangs operating and they have a turnover of £1 billion a year.”
He continued: “Too often leading criminals with the biggest assets are able to barter away some of the confiscations in court and have only a fraction of their assets confiscated.
“That is because they can afford expensive lawyers and accountants, but also because the good guys do not have the same firepower in professional terms.
“The number of forensic accountants in Scotland that are able to track this money through all of the complicated mazes set up to keep them out is probably less than a dozen.”