The 2005-06 costs of running the Belfast office of the Assets Recovery Agency totalled £8.3 million gross (£5.2 million net). This was made up of £2.1 million in staff costs, £4.3 million in receivers’ and other specialists’ fees, overheads of £1.5 million and other costs of £0.3 million. Asset recoveries applied against receivers’ fees totalled £3.0 million, leaving net costs of £5.2 million.
The Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) has no powers to bring prosecutions. In Northern Ireland this will remain the responsibility of the Public Prosecution Service. The ARA will maintain its current efforts in disrupting organised criminal enterprises through the civil recovery of criminal assets and through taxation until the merger with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), which is not likely to take place before April 2008. In addition the ARA has been carrying out some criminal confiscation work in Northern Ireland in support of cases investigated by Northern Ireland Government Departments and prosecuted by the Public Prosecution Service. SOCA will take over responsibility for all of ARA’s existing cases after the merger. The Serious Crime Bill includes provisions to extend the power to launch civil recovery proceedings to both SOCA and the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland.
The Government fully support the excellent co-operation that exists between the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) and the Criminal Assets Bureau in the Republic of Ireland in disrupting criminal enterprises through the recovery of assets. These arrangements will continue when ARA is merged with the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
Nothing in the Government’s proposals to merge the Assets Recovery Agency with the Serious Organised Crime Agency will take away from our efforts in tackling organised crime in Northern Ireland through the recovery of assets. Our aim is that it will improve and enhance our efforts to do so. All staff in the Assets Recovery Agency in Belfast will have the opportunity to transfer to the Serious Organised Crime Agency. No decisions have yet been taken about the total numbers of SOCA staff to be based in Belfast following the merger which is not likely to take place before April 2008. However, as was made clear in the written ministerial statement of 11 January 2007, Official Report, column 21WS, there will be no diminution in the resources available for asset recovery work in Northern Ireland.