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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 January 2007, 18:00 GMT
Assets recovery agency abolished
Assets worth almost 16m were frozen last year
The Assets Recovery Agency, set up to take money from criminals as part of a government drive against organised crime, is to be abolished.

The Home Office is expected to announce on Thursday that ARA will merge with the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Government sources insist that while the ARA will cease to exist in name, its work and investigations will continue.

The ARA has been operating in Northern Ireland for almost four years.

Last year it froze assets belonging to NI criminals worth almost 16m.

It is regarded as a success story but will not be operating for much longer.

The Home Office is expected to announce that the UK-wide agency is to be abolished as part of a restructuring.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency was set up last year to tackle drug trafficking and other major crime.

It is unclear what will happen to the 50 staff who work in the agency's Belfast office.

However, it is understood that the Northern Ireland Office has been given assurances that there will be no reduction in the resources dedicated to tackling organised crime.

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