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Confiscation Orders

Volume 560: debated on Tuesday 26 March 2013

5. What steps he is taking to increase the effectiveness of the pursuit by the Crown Prosecution Service of high-value confiscation orders. (149749)

The Crown Prosecution Service is generally very effective in the pursuit of high-value confiscation orders. My office and the CPS are represented on the Home Office-led criminal finances board, at which asset recovery performance is discussed. Asset recovery is a long process. Assets are often hidden. Third-party litigation, appeals against conviction and confiscation orders all mean that the enforcement of such orders may take a significant amount of time. Due to the way in which the value of a confiscation order is calculated, in many cases it is not possible to recover the full amount that has been ordered.

Four out of five of the largest confiscation orders sought by the CPS in the past three years have concerned VAT fraud. Will the Attorney-General ensure that prosecuting these high-value and highly complex fraud cases is prioritised by the CPS?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I will raise the matter with the CPS, but I have no reason to think that it is not doing that. The evidence suggests overall—I cannot break it down for VAT fraud—that year on year the amount being confiscated is rising from what was a very low and rather unsuccessful level after the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 first came into force. In the past year, £107 million was realised through confiscation. I will write to him about his specific point on VAT.