Prosecutors will claim that the net is closing in on criminals as international cooperation to eradicate cross-border crime strengthens, as demonstrated by a recent landmark judgment in Luxembourg.
On 30 April 2015, a ruling by the District Court of Luxembourg stated that the proceeds of crime - $500,000 in this case - hidden by a drug dealer, Mr Azam, in Luxembourg could be seized further to a civil recovery order which was granted by the UK courts against him and in favour of the National Crime Agency. This is the first time a foreign state has recognised and enforced a UK civil recovery order. In cases where proceeds of crime have been identified but it is not feasible to secure a conviction, or a conviction has been secured but no criminal confiscation order is made, civil recovery orders are an effective means of recovering proceeds of crime. In this climate of increased international cooperation to tackle cross-border crime, the Luxembourg ruling may well set a precedent for other countries to follow, which would open the way for UK authorities to recover millions of pounds that UK criminals have hidden abroad, money that has, until now, been out of reach because of a conviction or confiscation order.
UK prosecutors continue to be empowered to prosecute criminals with new legislation being enacted. The Bribery Act under which companies can be held "strictly liable" for their employees' actions is a good example, and the SFO has proposed that companies should have similar strict liability for other financial crimes committed by persons associate with it. Further to the new sentencing guidelines for fraud, bribery and money laundering (which came into force in October 2014), sentences for these crimes has become significantly harsher, with unlimited fines and 14 years imprisonment. These changes are taking place against the backdrop of dedicated international cooperation to tackle cross-border crime and money laundering. We are seeing UK authorities take advantage of these trends, quickly becoming more strategic in their combined use of civil and criminal law to win favourable judgments and enforce them overseas.
The case of Mr Azam is one of a growing number of examples of the current agenda of UK authorities to stamp out cross-border crime and it demonstrates the growing ease at which UK authorities are able to operate on an international platform.