Extending Moratorium Periods

"They are a really outstanding firm - their POCA and asset forfeiture work is absolutely first-class."

Chambers and Partners, 2019

Another feature of the Proceeds of Crime Act that can have the unwelcome effect of freezing property, including bank accounts, is the 'moratorium period'.

The Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) regime obliges those working inside or outside the regulated sector – so all financial institutions – to report to the National Crime Agency (NCA) any concern they might have that a particular transaction could constitute a money laundering offence.

Once a SAR is made the NCA may give or refuse consent to the transaction proceeding. Refusal of consent must be notified within seven working days of the SAR and triggers  a moratorium period of 31 days during which the transaction is prohibited and any accounts involved may be frozen.

A Crown Court may permit the extension of a moratorium period, by 31 days at a time, up to a maximum of six months, if it is satisfied of the following:

  • An investigation is underway following a SAR and has not been completed;
  • The investigation is being conducted diligently and expeditiously;
  • Further time is needed to conduct the investigation; and,
  • It is reasonable to extend the moratorium period.

Extension of the moratorium period

In practice, obtaining an extension of the moratorium period is straightforward for the relevant authority; however there are potential grounds to oppose an extension in most cases (particularly in respect of the diligence and expedition of the investigation). There is also the option of engaging with the relevant authority to explore whether a negotiated settlement or compromise can be reached.

Our proceeds of crime team has an excellent track record of acting in such matters and the importance of obtaining specialist advice cannot be overstated.

Services

Proceeds of Crime

Recent years have seen considerable growth in this practice area, following the introduction of new measures designed to tackle illicit finance and the increased attention of enforcement agencies.

Account Freezing and Forfeiture Orders, and Cash Seizure

Tackling illicit finance and the proceeds of crime is a government priority and law enforcement focus.

Money Laundering Regulation and Compliance

Ensuring that the UK financial system is an increasingly hostile environment for illicit finances is a key government priority.

Restraint Orders, Confiscation and Third Party Rights

We advise individuals and corporates in relation to restraint orders and third party applications in respect of property caught by restraint orders.

Unexplained Wealth Orders

UWOs are used by law enforcement agencies to require an individual to prove that a particular asset was obtained through legitimate means.

Money Laundering

The UK’s anti-money laundering (AML) regime is amongst the most stringent. We represent both individuals and organisations in AML matters.

Fraud and Financial Crime

Defending complex white collar cases successfully is what we are known for. The firm has the largest team of specialist criminal lawyers in the UK.

Investigations

When an individual or company is faced with a criminal or regulatory investigation we manage every step of the process.

Medical Cannabis: Licensing and Investment

We advise corporates and individuals on all aspects of investing and licensing in cannabis industry.

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