Criminals in Scotland failing to pay back 'dirty money'

Organised criminals are flouting proceeds of crime laws and keeping their dirty money, Scottish Conservative research has claimed.

Russell Findlay MSP has called for the introduction of whole life sentences in Scotland
Russell Findlay MSP has called for the introduction of whole life sentences in Scotland

Analysis shows that criminals were ordered to hand over almost £1.6 million of criminal proceeds in the first three months of 2021 - but they in fact paid just five per cent of that.

Scottish Conservative Shadow Community Safety Minister Russell Findlay described the figures as a “scandalous betrayal of every drug-scarred community across Scotland”.

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According to figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives, the total value which should have been returned through Confiscation Orders for the first quarter of 2021/22 was £1,579,000. Yet only £74,000 of that has been paid, according to Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service data.

Confiscation orders are supposed to recover dirty profits from drug dealing, people trafficking, cybercrime and other lucrative criminality.

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Mr Findlay said: “Under the SNP, crime now pays and wealthy crooks clearly have nothing to fear from proceeds of crime laws.

“These figures represent a scandalous betrayal of every drug-scarred community across Scotland. When proceeds of crime laws were introduced at the turn of the millennium, we were told they’d bankrupt those at the pinnacle of organise crime. They have failed.

“If the SNP government was genuinely serious about tackling these gangs, they would give our police, prosecutors and courts the resources they need to do their jobs.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Proceeds of Crime Act remains an extremely powerful and effective tool in the fight against organised crime in Scotland.

“Where a confiscation order has been made by the court following conviction, the collection process is directed by the court process, however due to the size of the sums involved this can take time. Where payment is not made within the time allowed the case may be brought back before the court at which time any further enforcement procedure to recover the outstanding balance will be considered. This may include for example, the appointment of an administrator who will assist in the ingathering and management of realisable property."

He added: “Between 2006/07 and 2020/21, almost £124 million of ill-gotten gains has been recovered under the Proceeds of Crime legislation.”

The figures showed that for confiscation orders issued in the first quarter of this year, 95 per cent of them are in arrears. The total value of confiscation orders imposed in the first quarter of 2021-22 was £1,579,000. However, £1,505,000 worth of those orders are unpaid and in arrears, according to the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service’s, Quarterly fines report 50, published in November.

Last year, it emerged that one of the largest outstanding fines was a £1 million confiscation order handed out to Edinburgh brothel boss Margaret Paterson in May 2015, which six years later still remained unpaid. Ms Paterson had died aged 66 in September 2019 having paid just £219,559, leaving prosecutors trying to recover the money from her estate.

In 2013, she was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted for brothel-keeping, money laundering and living on the earnings of prostitution.

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