To what extent is the UK's anti‐money laundering and asset recovery regime used against organised crime?

Peter A. Sproat (University of the West of Scotland, Hamilton, UK)

Journal of Money Laundering Control

ISSN: 1368-5201

Publication date: 8 May 2009



Politicians justified the introduction of the illiberal and liberal parts of the UK's anti‐money laundering and asset recovery regime by reference to the extra‐ordinary threat posed by organised crime. This paper attempts to evaluate the extent to which the financial measures contained in the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002 and the Serious and Organised Crime and Policing Act 2005 are actually used against this threat.


The objective is achieved by reference to four distinct datasets found on the use of these measures. The first consists of the regular, usually monthly, bulletins on the Proceeds of Crime produced by the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA). The second – which reveals the length of sentences given to those convicted of money laundering offences under the POCA – was gathered from the Financial Action Task Force, the Home Office and Justice Office in Scotland. The third consists of the value of the cases which had been, and which were being, dealt with by the ARA at the time the National Audit Office produced it's report on the institution. The fourth is the number of financial reporting orders which have been imposed upon criminals, follows the discovery of an earlier version whilst examining parliamentary records.


The triangulated results suggest that the POCA powers – originally used by use against organised crime – were used against this alleged threat only on a small minority and number of occasions.

Research limitations/implications

This infrequent use raises major questions of either the ability of the policing agencies including the Serious and Organised Crime Agency to take on organised crime and/or the credibility of those who exaggerated a threat of organised crime to justify the (often illiberal) powers.


This paper questions whether the POCA will achieve one of its original aims. It will interest politicians and practitioners concerned with the combating of organised crime and/or anti‐money laundering and asset recovery as well as criminologists and those interested in civil liberties.



Sproat, P. (2009), "To what extent is the UK's anti‐money laundering and asset recovery regime used against organised crime?", Journal of Money Laundering Control, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 134-150.

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