The claimant offshore finance company operated solely over the internet offering services including transferring monies to and from other customer accounts it held and making transfers to external bank accounts. It used another company (C) to process the external bank transfers and C used a bank to set up trust accounts for the claimant’s customers’ monies. The claimant experienced delays with payment requests and it transpired that both C and the bank had made disclosure reports to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) about their suspicions about the claimant. SOCA gave consent to C to release the claimant’s funds but not to the bank to do so. The claimant asked SOCA to give its consent to the bank as a matter of urgency but SOCA refused to do so, stating that a direct request from the bank and a change in circumstances would be required before the issue of consent would be considered again.
The Court of Appeal held that SOCA should not withhold its consent without good reason. It was unsatisfactory that SOCA was not obliged to disclose the reason for its decision, the facts on which it had relied in reaching it and the nature of the investigation it was conducting. Also, nothing in s335 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 required that the request to revisit the decision had to be made by the bank. SOCA was obliged to keep the matter of consent under review and must give consent when there was no longer any good reason for withholding it. SOCA must act independently of a request from anybody, not just the potential offender. The decision refusing to revisit the refusal to consent was quashed.
R (on the application of UMBS Online Ltd v Serious Organised Crime Agency & Revenue & Customs (Interested Party)