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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
Cracking down on profits of crime
The legislation will extend powers to seize assets
Scotland's crime bosses are to be targeted under new UK-wide proposals aimed at tracking down their ill-gotten gains.

Plans to give police tough new powers to search for and seize large sums of criminal cash and other assets have been unveiled.

They are contained in the Proceeds of Crime Bill, which was published on Thursday by the UK Government.

Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace: Seeking Holyrood's agreement
Scotland's Justice Minister Jim Wallace said that the proposals had the full support of the Scottish Executive, which will recommend that the Scottish Parliament approves the introduction of the legislation across the UK.

He said it was important to have similar provisions north and south of the border to avoid creating safe havens for criminals.

"Some of the areas covered by the proposed legislation are reserved - for example confiscating the proceeds of drug trafficking, money laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking and taxation - while others are devolved," he explained.

"It therefore seems sensible to legislate on a UK-wide basis and we will be seeking the agreement of the Scottish Parliament to do this."

Tougher powers

Talks are also taking place on how some of the assets recovered in Scotland could be spent by Holyrood.

The new law will give police tougher powers of investigation and enforcement.

And a new Crown Office unit will be able to apply to confiscate assets through the civil courts - even though a criminal conviction has not been not secured.

In the Queen's Speech earlier this year, the government pledged that it would take action to tackle money laundering and make it easier to recover the proceeds of crime and drugs.

Heroin packages
Criminals involved in drugs will be targeted
Under the proposals unveiled on Thursday, this action will be strengthened by ending the distinctions between terrorism, drugs and other crime, and by tougher disclosure requirements for financial institutions.

Scotland's justice minister estimated that the proceeds of crime north of the border ran into hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

"Many major criminal figures have become untouchable by criminal prosecution," said Mr Wallace.

"They organise or finance the criminal activity of others and profit from the results, but often remain remote from the commission of particular crimes, making it impossible for the law enforcement agencies to build a case against them."

BBC Scotland's Elizabeth Quigley
"Civil liberties campaigners are anxious about these measures"
See also:

05 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Straw targets crime chiefs
05 Feb 01 | Scotland
Drugs assets seizure victory
13 Oct 00 | Scotland
Drug profit confiscations outlawed
10 Oct 00 | Scotland
Pledge on crime assets
09 Oct 00 | Scotland
New powers to seize drug profits
14 Jun 00 | Scotland
Call to seize criminal assets
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