More than £100 million in criminal assets seized.
Significant progress has been made tackling serious organised crime in Scotland as public, private and voluntary sector partners work together to deal with emerging threats from cyber crime, human trafficking and fraud.
Scotland’s Serious Organised Crime Strategy annual review reveals police officers made nearly 3,000 arrests over the last year of people known to be involved in serious organised crime.
Almost £9 million was taken from individuals and companies involved in criminal activity, which brings the total seized through proceeds of crime legislation to more than £100 million since the law came in to force.
There are 196 known serious organised crime groups operating in Scotland, with two-thirds linked to seemingly legitimate businesses.
Nearly £7 million of counterfeit goods, including fake cigarettes, clothing, cosmetics and medicines, were seized in Scotland over the 12 month period.
Launching the annual review, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said:
“Since we refreshed our strategy last year there has been a significant amount of work, across a huge range of partners, to reduce the harm caused by serious organised crime to Scottish communities. The threat from serious organised crime continues to evolve and we are adapting our approach to try to meet these emerging threats head on.
“Tackling organised crime is about much more than police raids and court trials. We need to work collectively, in our communities to tackle the harm caused by serious organised crime, to stop the cycle of deprivation and, crucially, give those involved in these activities the chance to turn their lives around. With the right education we can prevent people, including our young people, from being recruited into a life of crime.
“Much of the ill-gotten gains seized from criminals, now £100 million over the last 14 years, goes directly back to the people who will benefit most through the CashBack for Communities programme that we established in 2008.
“We are making huge strides to detecting, disrupting and deterring serious organised crime in Scotland. But we are not complacent and will continue to strengthen our approach, working together to make our communities safer and to help them flourish.”
Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, said:
"Prosecutors in Scotland have deprived crime groups and others who benefit from criminal activity of more than £100 million since the Proceeds of Crime Act came into force. This legislation is an extremely powerful tool in the fight against serious organized crime. "It has caused major disruption to crime groups and to individuals involved in serious organised crime by targeting their income and personal assets including their homes, cars and businesses. "By maximising our use of this legislation, we have helped to make Scotland one of the most difficult places in the world for serious organised crime groups to operate. "The public should be aware that counterfeit goods are often the product of serious organised crime and that by buying such goods you could be funding groups who deal in drugs and human trafficking. And if you buy goods which you know to be stolen then you could also be prosecuted under the Proceeds of Crime Act."
Deputy Chief Constable Johnny Gwynne said:
"Serious organised crime impacts on all our communities, does not respect boundaries or borders and constantly evolves to establish new ways of generating profits from illegal activity and all that comes with it including violence and intimidation.
"As a taskforce partner, Police Scotland is absolutely resolute in using all means at our disposal to undermine serious organised criminals regardless of what commodity they are plying; whether it's Class A drugs or new psychoactive substances; counterfeit goods or recommissioned firearms; human trafficking or large-scale money laundering and fraud.
"Criminals are increasingly using cyber-technology to carry out their trade and as a collective, the taskforce and Police Scotland are doing all we can to ensure there is no hiding place for them; serious organised crime groups will find Scotland an increasingly hostile environment for them to operate in.
"Our reach extends further than it has ever done. Whether you are a serious organised criminal with a base in Scotland, a network across the UK or connections in other countries, we will do all we can to put you out of business."
For the full annual report: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/11/2111
The Taskforce comprises 17 Scottish and other agencies working together to tackle the impact of serious organised crime, focusing on the four strands of Divert, Deter, Disrupt and Deter.
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