Does the Level of Benefits in POCA Cases matter?

Does the Level of Benefits in POCA Cases matter?Frenkels Forensics were instructed to prepare an expert accounting report on behalf of a Defendant (previously convicted for being involved in a conspiracy to import Class A drugs) in relation to a confiscation of assets under Section 6(4) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.  The prosecution had calculated the amount of benefit at £2.5 million.  However, even they had estimated that the Defendant’s total available amount of realisable assets were only £30,000.

We undertook our usual task of reducing the alleged benefits figure. This included identifying several instances of double counting, arithmetic errors, legitimate income of the Defendant and items outside of the 6 year period which had all been included by the prosecution.  We brought the figure down to £200,000 mainly comprising the value of the drugs seized.  We also reduced the value of realisable assets down to £20,000 having identified assets that were in fact in joint ownership and not therefore available to the Defendant.

An interesting feature of this case was the Judge’s comments in Court.  He was querying why the prosecution had suggested a 2 day hearing for this matter.  He pointed out that whatever ruling he would ultimately make in relation to the value of benefits, whether £200,000 or £2.5 million or a figure somewhere in between, a maximum figure of only £30,000 would be recovered from the Defendant.  Therefore he queried whether it was worth spending valuable court time arguing about the level of benefits which might be academic.

The prosecution responded that establishing the value of benefits was important because in the future the Defendant’s financial position might change and further assets could then be realised. In any event under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 benefits had to be established even where realisable assets were low.

The Judge accepted the prosecution’s point and the case went ahead.  Most of the time in Court was taken up with arguments relating to the benefits figure.  As a footnote the benefits figure was agreed at £220,000 and a confiscation order made for an amount of just over £20,000.

This case highlights the necessity to challenge the prosecution’s benefit calculation even where the Defendant’s realisable assets are low.

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