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Serious Organised Crime Agency

Volume 486: debated on Thursday 15 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many cases were being investigated by the Serious Organised Crime Agency in which criminal confiscation action had been initiated in (a) Northern Ireland and (b) the UK as at 31 March 2008; what the estimated value of the assets restrained in those cases was; in how many such investigations SOCA has obtained a confiscation order; what the value of assets affected by such orders is; and what the estimated value of assets restrained under such orders is; (243844)

(2) how many criminal investigations were opened by the Serious Organised Crime Agency in (a) 2006-07 and (b) 2007-08; what value of assets have been restrained in such cases in each year; in how many such cases assets have been restrained in each year; what estimate has been made of the value of assets under investigation in such cases in each year; how many such cases related to criminal confiscation investigations in each year; and how many such cases resulted in persons being charged in each year.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) undertakes a range of operational activity in order to fulfil its functions as defined in sections 2 and 3 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. As referred to in its latest annual report, SOCA's contribution to the UK Serious Organised Crime Control Strategy in the two years since it was formed has been:

2006-07: 404 operations and projects.

2007-08: 459 operations and projects. In addition, as at 31 March 2008 SOCA was undertaking 173 inquiries (single strand investigations).

Operations are multi-faceted and the activity is tailored to that which is most likely to have the greatest impact on harm at the time. During the lifetime of an operation a SOCA investigation may switch between a criminal investigation and an investigation that seeks to disrupt an individual, group, or criminal activity other than by way of a criminal investigation and vice versa, or it may look to prosecute some members of the group and use civil or other powers against others. SOCA does not therefore hold information on the number of separate criminal investigations within operations. Information on the number of arrests and convictions flowing from SOCA's work is set out in the SOCA annual report.

Every SOCA tasked operation will include a financial element and criminal confiscation will be pursued where appropriate. Where SOCA has decided to take forward a criminal confiscation investigation in conjunction with a criminal investigation, these investigations are in persona i.e. against the person not in rem i.e. against the property.

SOCA therefore does not measure each criminal investigation in terms of assets involved, but in terms of the criminal's benefit from their conduct.