Prosecution Office recovers £21.5m in first year

The Revenue & Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO) has successfully recovered £21.5m of criminal assets in its first year of operation.

The independent prosecuting authority was launched in April 2005 and in its first year carried out 1,701 cases involving 2,269 defendants.

Director David Green QC said in the RCPO’s first annual report: “Our prosecutors have brought independence and professionalism to prosecution decisions and to the conduct of casework.”

Prosecutors working in the office deal with offences involving tax and VAT, excise, drugs, money laundering, prohibited exports and imports, and endangered species. Since April this year, the RCPO has also been handling prosecutions for the newly established Serious Organised Crime Agency, but these are not covered by the report.

Green said that one of the RCPO’s biggest challenges had been dealing with missing trader intra-community (MTIC) fraud, which usually involves VAT avoidance across several EU states. The organisation is currently dealing with 25 MTIC cases and has already obtained confiscation orders totalling £60m.

Identity theft was the RCPO’s other major target area, with 30 cases ongoing.

Most RCPO cases were carried out in the Crown Court. In total, 81 per cent of defendants were convicted, including those who pleaded guilty, and 89 per cent of all prosecutions involved the conviction of at least one defendant.

The RCPO expects to receive up to 3,000 new cases during the current financial year.

Expenditure during 2005-06 totalled £37.8m, which is expected to drop slightly to £37.2m in 2007 and 2008.