• National Crime Agency has only recovered £22.5m in assets from criminals
• This is despite the agency having a budget of half a billion pounds
• Home Affairs Committee says that the agency must ‘drastically improve’
• Report says MPs are not seeing the expected level of performance
By James Slack, Home Affairs Editor for the Daily Mail – Daily Mail
Britain’s ‘FBI’ has recovered only £22.5million in assets from criminal masterminds despite having a budget of £500million.
MPs on the home affairs committee said the National Crime Agency – which was set up in 2013 to seize the proceeds of crime from millionaire villains – must ‘improve drastically’.
‘We are not seeing the level of performance we would expect,’ they said in a report examining policing reforms introduced by Home Secretary Theresa May.
‘It is not recovering assets in sufficient volume to justify a budget of half a billion. The NCA must improve drastically so that the returns achieved equate to the resources available to it.’
However, Westminster’s home affairs committee said its performance was better than the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), which recouped only £14.9million of criminal assets in its last year of operation.
The NCA managed to claw back almost £11million in cash and around £5million in property, plus antiques, cars, watches and jewellery.
The MPs also took a swipe at SOCA, whose responsibilities all passed to the NCA, for its ‘unacceptably’ slow handling of a dossier containing more than 2,000 suspected paedophiles who had been viewing child porn websites.
As the Mail highlighted last month, police waited two years before acting on the list of ‘customer’ names supplied by the Canadian authorities.
Investigators in Toronto said they were surprised at the inaction of UK police – who in some cases refused to even answer calls or return messages.
Authorities failed to act even when suspects worked in positions of trust leaving dozens of men, including medical staff, teachers and public sector workers free to continue offending for months.
By contrast more than 50 other countries, including Spain, Mexico and Romania, leapt on the data and made hundreds of arrests.
Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: ‘The NCA has proved to be more responsive and more active than its predecessor SOCA, but it is not yet the FBI equivalent that it was hailed to be.
‘Its reputation has been damaged by the unacceptably slow response to the backlog of child abuse cases sent to it by Toronto Police.
The committee’s report examined every aspect of policing reform introduced by Mrs May.
The MPs said they are concerned that some police forces fear they will not be able to operate in their current form if they are expected to make further cuts.
The committee said that, if local forces wanted to merge, they should be allowed to do so – an idea which could provoke widespread controversy.
Failure to recover criminal assets has been a long-standing problem for the UK law enforcement authorities.
The National Audit Office recently warned that criminals are only forced to pay back 35p in every £100 they illegally ‘earn’.
The inquiry by the spending watchdog found 673,000 offenders were convicted of a crime in 2012-13, many of which had a financial element, but only 6,400 confiscation orders were made.
Only 2 per cent of offenders paid their confiscation orders in full , the NAO said, because the sanctions which could be imposed for non-payment ‘do not work.’
• A National Crime Agency spokesman said: “The NCA’s aim is to reduce the impact of serious and organised crime, not to generate revenue. Of course we want to deny criminals access to their money whenever we can, but the real value of going after the money comes from its disruptive effect on criminal activity. Targeting criminal cash flow can derail conspiracies, prevent further crimes being bankrolled, damage criminals’ reputations with each other, and can connect higher level players and the professionals essential to money laundering to the crime. That’s why the amount of money we freeze or confiscate does not equal the value of doing it, and why the size of the pot is not an effective measure of success.”