ASA freezes South Armagh assets

The Assets Recovery Agency as been criticised for going after loyalists and widows only. It seems that has changed with the seizure some substantial assets in Camlough, Newry and Warrenpoint. Press release below:From Assets Recovery Agency

The Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) has been granted an Interim Receiving Order at Belfast High Court on properties located in south Armagh, south Down and Belfast worth approximately £750,000. An Interim Receiver has now taken control of the properties and other assets held by Seán Patrick Bernard Plunkett Byrne and his brother John Paul Byrne, both of 17 Barr Road, Belleeks, County Armagh.

The assets include:

* Riverside Filling Station and business premises in Camlough, County Armagh

* a petrol station and premises at Meeting Street, Warrenpoint, County Down

* a house in Newry

* an apartment at St. John’s Wharf, Belfast

* an number of vehicles including farm machinery

* a number of bank accounts

It is estimated at this stage that net equity in the properties is in the region of £600,000. The values of the businesses as going concerns are yet to be assessed.

The case was referred to the Agency by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as a result of a joint HMRC and Garda Criminal Assets Bureau criminal investigation conducted during 2004 into fuel smuggling and laundering on both sides of the border.

In its case to the High Court, ARA alleges that the assets of both brothers are derived from fuel smuggling and laundering, together with excise fraud and associated money laundering activity.

ARA Assistant Director Alan McQuillan said: “This case clearly demonstrates the importance and value of the partnerships between ARA, Customs and other law enforcement agencies.

“One of ARA’s critical roles is to tackle criminal assets of those individuals who cannot for whatever reason be successfully prosecuted in the criminal courts. That is precisely what we have done in this case.

“Everyone in society suffers as a result of this kind of illegal activity and we are here to put a stop to it together with our colleagues in the Organised Crime Task Force”

On addition:

1. The amount of money found in the bank accounts cannot be confirmed at this stage. Monies in accounts can vary significantly on a day to day basis.

2. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 created the Assets Recovery Agency and provided completely new powers to allow ARA to seek civil recovery of the proceeds of unlawful activity by an action in the High Court. The Agency can also issue tax assessments where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that there is taxable income, gain or profit from criminal conduct.

3. Assets are usually restrained at an early stage in the Agency’s proceedings. Interim Receiving Orders or Freezing Orders are granted where ARA has presented a good arguable case that assets have been unlawfully acquired – at this stage only the Agency’s initial arguments have been heard. Respondents then have the opportunity to present any facts to counter the Agency’s arguments.

4. The Interim Receiver is an independent officer of the High Court. Their role is to take control of and preserve the assets. They will also carry out an independent investigation into these matters and report to the High Court due course with recommendations on what property represents the proceeds of crime and is therefore ‘recoverable’ i.e. can be made forfeit.

5. The Agency is playing its part in the multi-agency approach to deliver the Government’s Asset Recovery Strategy. Under the cross government initiative ‘Payback’, the tracing of and recovery of assets is seen as an important element in the delivery of justice, and sends out a strong deterrent message. The overall aims of the strategy are to make greater use of the investigations of criminal assets in the fight against crime; recover money that has been made from crime or which is intended for use in crime; prevent criminals and their associates from laundering the proceeds of criminal conduct, and detect and penalise such laundering where it occurs; to use the proceeds recovered for the benefit of the community.