UK

DPP Alison Saunders announces plan to seize more criminal assets hidden abroad

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Media captionAlison Saunders: "We've identified 12 priority cases and the total assets we are hoping to recover from that is about £10 million"

The director of public prosecutions for England and Wales has unveiled a new drive to clamp down on criminals hiding their assets abroad.

Alison Saunders will deploy six specialist lawyers overseas to work with foreign authorities.

The first two asset recovery advisers will be stationed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Spain.

They hope to initially recover £10m in assets from convicted tax evaders, drug barons and corrupt businessmen.

In one of her first key announcements since becoming DPP three months ago, Ms Saunders said criminal asset recovery would be a priority for the Crown Prosecution Service.

"People have been convicted of crimes. They might be tax evaders, they might be drug offenders," she said.

"But what is really important is that we get the money back so that we can either give it back to victims - so we compensate victims for the crimes against them - or if there are no victims, that we deprive criminals of effectively what is their life blood, which is money.

"And it means they can't go on and put that money back into more crime."

Spanish connection

The DPP, who was due to explain the details of the new strategy in a speech in Madrid on Monday, said UK criminals have traditionally enjoyed close connections with Spain - choosing to hide their assets in Spanish property and bank accounts.

She said this may be due to the fact Spain is so close to the UK.

As such, a prosecutor is to be stationed in Spain - in addition to another who is already based there.

"That prosecutor will be looking at not only practically how we can help the Spanish enforce our orders," Ms Saunders said. "But also how we can work together in relation to our legislation, our processes and procedures, to make sure that we really do maximise the amount of assets that we recover from Spain."

The other asset recovery adviser will be sent to the UAE.

Four remaining lawyers will be stationed in "priority countries" yet be determined.

Their jobs will be to work directly with local police and partners in government to boost the amount of hidden assets stripped from criminals.

A spokesman for Scotland's prosecution service said it had a specialist international crime unit in place that worked closely with authorities overseas to ensure criminal assets held abroad were recovered.

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