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ARA aka Armed Robbery Agency

Yesterday, the Assets Recovery Agency has been set up to seize the wealth of previously untouchable “Mr Bigs” who have not been convicted of an offence but whose way of life is paid for by crime. It will take on cases referred to it by UK police forces, Customs & Excise, the Inland Revenue, the National Crime Squad and the Serious Fraud Office. Its work is considered so sensitive that its agents will be allowed to use pseudonyms – including in court – and the Government refuses to say where it is based.

The Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) will not have to prove that the people whom it prosecutes are guilty of any crime. The onus will be on the man with the Jaguar, the gold bracelet and the holiday home in Ocho Rios to show that he came by his luxuries legally. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, which set up the agency, cases will be decided on the balance of probabilities, rather than the stricter criminal test of certainty beyond reasonable doubt.

The prosecutors will need only to accuse someone of living ‘above their means’ to bring them to court (without a jury, I might add), if they have “reasonable grounds” for believing that their wealth had been acquired illegally. However, it is the owner’s responsibility to prove otherwise and assets could be seized on the “balance of probabilities”. This is a far cry from the “beyond reasonable doubt” requirements of the criminal courts. It will, therefore, be possible for the civil courts to seize the assets of someone found not guilty in the criminal courts. Oh, and the presumption of innocence has gone out of the window long before the judge’s ‘balancing act’.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary elaborates:

The agency is coming after the homes, yachts, mansions and luxury cars of the crime barons. This is also about cracking down on local crooks well known in their communities for their flash cars, designer clothes and expensive jewellery but no legitimate means of income.

And Jane Earl, director of the ARA reassures:

If you have a large house and five places in the Caribbean, with no visible means of support, no rich aunties who have recently died leaving the odd five million and no successful lottery tickets, it will not do to say that someone gave you the money.

It is as if all their hatred is directed not so much against criminals as against the trappings of wealth. If Mr Blunkett and Ms Earl think they have a case against somebody, they should be made to prove it.

Oh, but they can’t do that because the justice system is so screwed up. Let’s hire some anonymous thugs then. First we get the Bad Big Criminals and then let’s see what we can do without any competition…

10 comments to ARA aka Armed Robbery Agency

  • Crosbie Smith

    It’s interesting that such powers are required to target drug dealing. Perhaps the ‘victims’ aren’t helping with enquiries?

    Anyway, these new powers will be very helpful in enforcing whole new classes of victimless crime. Asset forfeiture for ‘crimes of profiteering’ could be quite an election winner.

  • Apparently the crown is following Uncle Sam’s lead in a bad direction. This sounds like it’s modeled after America’s reprehensible RICO laws.

  • James Merritt

    Of course, Britain seems merely to be following the lead of the US in this promising new method of revenue enhancement. Seizure tactics over here are the topic of national scandal, and are among the biggest reasons that previously drug-phobic middle Americans are now seriously entertaining steps up to and including the end of drug prohibition. It is finally becoming clear to significant number of Americans that the Drug War “cure” is far worse than the disease. Analogically, it’s as if we were scared to death of herpes and practically lived in a bubble to avoid it. But people are seeing that living in a bubble is worse than living with a cold sore. I hope Britain comes to that realization sooner, rather than later. If you want to remove the high-margin profit motive from the drug trade, it is better to legalize drugs than declare them contraband.

  • Shaun Bourke

    This is a “bill of goods”.The primary,unspoken,focus here is the use of tax shelters/havens/schemes to reduce or extinguish that dreaded cancer of the left…Income Tax.
    What are you going to say to Inland Revenue when they come knocking on your door to do a fishing expeditation due partially to a errr….tip-off,that you are clearly living beyond your means.One must therefore ask are you now in a position to defend yourself/family and property. Errr….can you use your property,as colateral,to defend same?Who generated the “tip-off”………….

  • Thus begin the incestuous relationship between “crime” and government

    The government will get used to this extra income (they have even set targets for “recovery”). Thus they cannot eliminate crime as it’s a source of revenue and when did you hear of a government reducing its demand for revenue ?

  • Johnathan

    Could be another way to crack down on offshore bank accounts.

    Of course it stinks, but the sheep-like British public won’t object. As for the Tory Party, forget it.

  • Even if the Government refuses to say where ARA is based, I can tell you its at New Scotland Yard of Victoria Street and is basically the NCIS Economic Crime Unit renamed. It already dealt with money laundering, financial scams etc. Typical New Labour spin.

    This gives them increased powers.

  • Is it worth trying to repopularise the Magna Carta?

    I fear a lot of ordinary people get quite muddled when an impassioned libertarian tries to explain ‘habeus corpus’ or ‘presumption of innocence’ – yet the overall set of ideas are nicely compact [all written on one ‘Big Card’ after all]. It could be good to defend them as a group rather than see these freedoms picked off one by one.

    Mr Straw wants to make individuals obliged to prove their innocence. How can we best explain how bad this is to people who are still undecided? Any ideas?

  • Shaun Bourke

    Under Military Law,you are presumed guilty and it is up to the accused to prove otherwise……I beleive you call it Admiralty Law.
    A good place to start research though would be Germany during Hitlers reign,Russia for most of this past centuryand to-date and most-other countries with long standing socialist governments that are financially bankrupt.
    As for the Tories,they are intoxicated on the virtues of joining the EU and totally consumed with themselves.