Criminals’ missing millions must be found – leader comment

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Given big-time criminals have always motivated by one thing that some appear to value above life itself – money – it is perhaps strange it took until 2002 for the authorities to catch on in a meaningful way.

The Proceeds of Crime Act of that year enabled police and prosecutors to go after their ill-gotten gains as never before. Drug dealers, money launderers and other organised criminals have all lost millions as a result.

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But the revelation that nearly £7 million covered by court-sanctioned confiscation orders has not been paid – up from £6.6m last year – is alarming news, particularly as just ten people accounted for about half the total.

Prison is a deterrent but, for some, a greater one may be the likelihood that they will emerge from years in a jail cell to a life of poverty, rather than undeserved luxury.

So the authorities must ensure that sufficient resources are being put into tracking down illicit funds wherever they are hidden – from mattresses to offshore tax havens. There must be no let-up.

If crime truly does not pay, then what is the point in doing it?

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