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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 04:59 GMT 05:59 UK
Assets Recovery Agency 'failing'
Criminals' cash
The success of the agency has come into question
An agency set up to seize criminals' assets has cost taxpayers around 60m despite only recovering just over 8m from law breakers since 2003.

The Asset Recovery Agency was set up to tackle organised crime. It was meant to raise enough cash to cover its budget.

Tory Grant Shapps obtained figures from the Home Office showing in the ARA cost four times what it recovered in 2005.

Director Jane Earl said she was disappointed with the results but the ARA had made life harder for criminals.

"Our disruptive action where we have exceeded our targets is playing a big part in making the general landscape much more difficult for criminals to operate in," she said.

"We are disappointed that cases have not come to fruition as quickly as we had first hoped but we are clear that this is a long haul and we will continue to play a full part in recovering the proceeds of crime."

The policy has been a failure and it is time the agency was made to work
Grant Shapps MP

When the ARA was launched with the power to seize criminals cars and cash Tony Blair said the agency was going to hit big time crooks hard - "where it most hurts in their pockets".

In 2004 the agency recovered vehicles worth just 5,000 - that was despite a 50% increase in its staff.

The agency admits there are problems but argues cases are taking longer because they are working with new laws.

Downing Street said the agency had done a lot of good disruptive work but conceded the level of asset recover to date had been disappointing.

Currently the agency has succeeded in freezing 68.45m of criminals' assets but Mr Shapps says that is some distance from the goal of recovering the cash.

He said the attempts to finally seize criminals' assets were being fought in the courts, including using human rights legislation.

Mr Shapps added that by Mr Blair's own benchmark at the time of the launch the agency should have recovered 80m.

"The policy has been a failure and it is time the agency was made to work," he said.


SEE ALSO
Agency aims to take crime gains
14 Jun 06 |  UK Politics
Criminal profits dented by 5.5m
06 Jun 05 |  England

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