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Tackling serious organised crime in new and different ways

Tackling serious organised crime in new and different ways

HOME OFFICE News Release (100/2008) issued by The Government News Network on 15 May 2008

Serious Organised Crime Agency Publishes Second Annual Report The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) today published its second annual report - for the year 2007/08.

SOCA was set up to hit serious organised criminals where they are weakest; wherever that may be. During the second year that has involved: significant seizures of drugs and the chemicals required to produce class A drugs; more money taken from criminals; increasing use of new tools and powers; and, work with the private sector to make crime harder to commit in the first place.

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said:

"SOCA is having a significant impact on serious organised crime from seizing class A Drugs, confiscating criminals' wealth and targeted interventions that make life harder for organised criminals to operate.

"This report shows how SOCA has set about its tasks in its second year of operating and I congratulate SOCA for its hard work and commitment to tackling those criminals that threaten our society and the innocent people within it."

Bill Hughes QPM, Director General of SOCA, said:

"We are attacking the world's strongest criminals where they are weakest, whether that is in Bogota or Bolton. We're systematically disrupting every link in the crime chain - from finance and production to communications and distribution."

Highlights of SOCA's second year include:

Another record year in the war against drugs

* almost 90 tonnes of class A drugs seized with partners at home and abroad (a 20 per cent increase on last year). The cocaine alone, cut to usual UK street quality, could have realised £6bn.

* over 30 tonnes of cannabis seized with partners at home and abroad;

* over 60 tonnes of precursor chemicals seized principally in Colombia and Afghanistan. The Colombian chemicals alone could have produced 190 tonnes of cocaine;

Deploying new tools and powers

* 41 Financial Reporting Orders in force during the year on convicted criminals' finances - including the recent first prosecution for a contravention;

* 53 disclosure notices -requiring individuals to co-operate with investigations by producing documents or answering questions;

* 10 ancillary orders - including travel restrictions and director disqualifications;

* 12 cases of additional licence conditions to reduce re-offending by serious criminals - Including non association with co-defendants and exclusion zones;

Prevention of serious crimes by working in new ways

* 46 warnings on crime threats issued to over 2,500 private sector organisations throughout the UK;

* one bank alone reported an estimated loss of £500,000 prevented as a result of a single alert;

Improved intelligence

* 2,000 serious organised criminals subject to SOCA operational activity;

* a recent mapping project with the police has identified thousands more criminals who will now be targeted jointly; Specialist support for UK law enforcement

* specialist operational support to police contributed to the effective handling of 14 threats to life and successfully resolved 22 kidnaps.

Cutting off criminal cash flows

* Over £46m criminal assets restrained by the domestic courts;

* All SOCA operations now include financial investigations and an additional 35 financial investigators were appointed during the year.

Examples in the report of SOCA operations in the last year include:

Operation AJOWAN investigated UK-based criminals trading worldwide in stolen bank, credit card and identity information via the web. The criminals were arrested, prosecuted and convicted and the potential loss to the UK from the actions of just one of the conspirators was assessed at over £6m;

Operation HOBART was an investigation into a North London criminal group responsible for trafficking Class A drugs into the UK. This involved working with American, European, Colombian and UK law enforcement agencies. During the investigation, illegal drugs with an estimated street value of £3.7m and $6 billion in counterfeit bonds and letters of credit with a face value of over £3 billion were seized. The three principals implicated were sentenced to 74 years imprisonment and seven associates a total of 70 years imprisonment.

Heroin in Carpets - in January 2008, SOCA received two separate reports from HMRC of illegal drugs importations coming through airports. Three packages of carpets were found to contain 16kg of heroin woven into them. Subsequent investigation led to the recovery of two further kilos of heroin at a UK address. Three individuals were charged with importation, possession and conspiracy to supply. A further 35kg of heroin were later found at another airport.

Tesco extortion arrest - SOCA, in support of Hertfordshire Constabulary, successfully arrested the individual who attempted extortion of Tesco leading to the closure of a number of stores. The individual was convicted and sentenced to six years imprisonment.

A joint operation between SOCA and Lithuanian law enforcement agencies focussed on the trafficking and subsequent distribution of firearms into the UK from Lithuania. Resulting intelligence led to operations which resulted in 10 arrests, the recovery of 22 handguns, 6 machine pistols, 20 silencers and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

Notes to Editors:

The Serious Organised Crime Agency was launched on 1 April 2006 (Home Office press notice 055/2006). It was formed from the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, and parts of HM Revenue and Customs and the Immigration Service, but was tasked by Ministers to adopt a fresh approach, aimed at increasing understanding of organised crime and then using a combination of traditional law enforcement tools and new ways of working to address the harm caused by serious organised crime.

On 1 April 2008 the Assets Recovery Agency merged with SOCA.

More information at http://www.soca.gov.uk

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