Specialist officers have celebrated a major milestone in the fight against serious crime as cash seizures during 2020 soar past the £1million mark.
Financial officers from the North East Regional Economic Crime Unit (RECU) have provided vital assistance to the National Crime Agency, other Regional police teams and the region’s police forces – helping to dismantle organised criminal groups by dealing with this seized cash, conducting financial investigations on those who held the cash and are associated with it. All with a view to freezing their assets, seizing further cash and anything else believed to have been acquired with criminal funds.
This year has been busier than ever – with total seizures now sitting at £1,125,742.40 – More than £480,000 of which was found concealed inside a fireplace and recovered by drugs-busting officers from North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU).
Today at Teesside Magistrates Court Cash Forfeiture orders totalling £732,784.70 were granted. Some of these monies will be returned to regional policing teams for the fight against crime.
Detective Sergeant Thomas Maughan, a lead for the North East RART, said: “Passing the million pound milestone was a huge achievement for us as it shows the public we are serious about tackling organised crime.
“For most criminals cash is still king – organised crime groups will do absolutely anything to make money, and then will go to great lengths to launder it and conceal where it originally came from.
“But the Proceeds of Crime Act allows us to enter a person’s home and seize cash and assets which we believe has links to criminality. We can then also go after individuals involved in serious and organised crime after they have been brought before the courts and impose further financial orders on them.
“For some offenders prison might not seem like much of a deterrent if they own their own home and a healthy bank balance to return to so we work tirelessly to make sure these people are stripped of whatever a life of crime afforded them.”
And absolutely nothing is off limits for the team – in recent years they’ve taken clothes from people’s wardrobes, cars parked on the driveway and even seized pensions and insurance policies.
First established in 2004, the team is made up of officers from Northumbria and Cleveland Police who work alongside the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU.) Their work is just another tool used in the fight against serious and organised crime, under the banner of Operation Sentinel – the region’s dedicated initiative.
Det Sgt Maughan also called on people to be vigilant and report anything they think might be suspicious, such as people appearing to live well beyond their means.
He added: “People might think we’re harsh revisiting offenders who have served their time but we need to look at the bigger picture. If you have made money by selling drugs and used that cash to buy a house and a luxury car – why should you be able to keep it? Crime does not pay, and we will keep reminding people of that.”