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SFO raids on the rise but value of seized assets falls

The leader of the corporate crime team at law firm Pinsent Masons said the SFO’s action showed investors that financial crime against them was being taken seriously.

He said: “Stripping criminals of the wealth they have gained through fraudulent activity sends the right messages to potential fraudsters, and it reassures businesses and other victims of fraud that this is a crime that is being taken seriously.”

Mr Vitou said the increase in raids was partly in response to criticism of law enforcement agencies for allowing convicted criminals to ignore confiscation orders.

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There was a significant increase in the number of raids, although this had yet to feed through to an increase in the reported value of the assets seized, which fell from £50.2m in 2011/12 to £11.4m in 2012/13, he added.

Mr Vitou said successfully seizing assets from fraudsters was notoriously difficult as they used a web of bank accounts to send money offshore or transfer assets into the names of accomplices.

Adviser view

Sebastian van Mook, financial adviser at Shropshire-based Abacus Associates, said: “There are strict money-laundering rules in the industry. If an adviser knowingly facilitates money laundering or even if they report it but tip off the fraudster, there are severe consequences, possibly even a jail sentence. Advisers also need to be cautious and keep paper files secure in locked cabinets and dispose of data thoroughly, especially paper.”