Publication - Report

Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Strategy 2016 annual report

Published: 3 Nov 2016
Safer Communities Directorate
Part of:
Law and order

Annual report setting out progress made in implementing Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Strategy.

20 page PDF

267.4 kB

20 page PDF

267.4 kB

Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Strategy 2016 annual report
What We've Done To Tackle Serious Organised Crime

20 page PDF

267.4 kB

What We've Done To Tackle Serious Organised Crime

Nearly 3000
Arrests of persons known to be involved in serious organised crime

£6.8 million
Estimated value of counterfeit goods and products forfeited through Anti-illicit Trade Group Activity

New Legislation
Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015
Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2016
Serious Crime Act 2015

£43 million
Estimated value of Recyclable and Residual Waste and Security and Equipment contracts subject to greater scrutiny through Scotland Excel frameworks.

£8.9 million
Amount secured from criminals in 2015/16 under proceeds of crime legislation for investment in the Scottish Government's CashBack for Communities programme

Over £500 million
Estimated value of cocaine seized in the North Sea

The Four Strands: Divert, Deter, Detect, Disrupt

The Serious Organised Crime Taskforce, chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and the Lord Advocate, oversees the work carried out to reduce the harm caused by serious organised crime ( SOC) in Scotland, and provide strategic direction and support. The Taskforce has adopted a new themed approach to meetings, where specific issues of concern are discussed and addressed so that the key objectives of Divert, Deter, Detect and Disrupt within Scotland's SOC Strategy are met.

Since the launch of the refreshed strategy in 2015, many organisations have contributed to, and supported the work of, the Taskforce. Some of these are listed at Annex A.

Each of the four objectives commonly referred to as "strands": Divert, Deter, Detect and Disrupt, have new implementation plans. These plans provide a strategic framework identifying agreed priority actions to secure the outcomes set out in the strategy to reduce the harm caused by SOC. Each of the strands is led by a senior official who is responsible for ensuring that work is carried out in concert across multiple agencies.

The work of the Taskforce is supported through the Scottish Crime Campus. The aim of the campus is to enhance the investigative collaboration between key partner organisations in the fight against SOC and terrorism. It brings together officers and staff from over 17 agencies; their collective success is reported in the Scottish Multi-Agency Strategic Threat Assessment ( SMASTA).

Flow chart


Divert people from becoming involved in serious organised crime and using its products

Paul Carberry, the Director of Children's Services, Action for Children Scotland, leads efforts to divert people, particularly young people, away from becoming involved with serious organised crime groups ( SOCGs). The age group of young people commonly affected by SOCGs is 13 to 18 years, the majority of whom become caught up in drug crime as street dealers or runners; however they can often be used for other activities aimed at disrupting rival SOCGs.

A key element of this diversionary work is to encourage positive changes in attitudes and behaviours by developing tailor-made action plans showing young people and their families that there are alternatives to having a criminal lifestyle.

This is one of the reasons why money recouped from criminals is invested back into community projects across Scotland, through the Scottish Government's CashBack scheme, with over £5 million invested in such projects over the course of the last year.

The overall key to continuing with this successful multi-agency approach lies in identifying those who are vulnerable to serious organised crime, establishing effective intervention options, and providing support in the form of positive role models.

Activity supporting the Divert strand includes: Interventions supporting young people

A teenager from Glasgow was referred to Action for Children due to their offending behaviour as well as ongoing concerns surrounding their family's involvement in SOC.

Action for Children developed a relationship with the teenager, working to sustain their engagement within mainstream education; the ultimate aim being to divert them away from a life of crime. The teenager was identified as being a 'natural leader' within their peer group which could have had a positive, or negative, impact on their life, and the lives of others, depending on the choices they made.

The charity's staff used various techniques to create a comprehensive assessment and action plan tailored to the teenager's individual needs. This included both 1:1 and group work, designed to equip the teenager with the necessary life skills and confidence that would help them make positive choices. Through this work, the teenager was able to be successful in a number of accredited award schemes.

Throughout, the teenager demonstrated that they would be suited to a peer mentoring role, as this would allow them to share their own experiences with others, and talk about the journey they have made. The teenager demonstrated that with the right support and opportunity, that they possessed the passion and capability to have a positive influence on the behaviour and actions of others.

Upon completion of the intervention programme, the teenager was able to secure a funded job placement.

Helping young offenders

A Police Community Liaison Officer ( PCLO) was seconded to HM Young Offenders Institution ( YOI), Polmont in April 2015 with the dual aim of breaking down barriers between the police and young people and reducing the level and severity of offending. The PCLO developed a mentor scheme where young offenders and remand prisoners were provided with the tools to become confident individuals, effective contributors, successful learners and responsible citizens. This approach informs the through-care process, helping to continue rehabilitation after release and supporting reintegration back into communities and future development of positive lifestyles.

A Team Building and Leadership course was introduced in August 2015. Of the 70 young people who participated, 59 successfully completed the course. Of these 59: five have gone on to full-time employment; 10 have engaged with trauma bereavement and loss services; 24 have been referred to domestic abuse support and receive one-to-one support from CEA (Committed to Ending Abuse - Falkirk Women's Aid); 15 have expressed an interest in becoming involved with Police Scotland Youth Volunteers as adult helpers; and five have been supported back into the Rutherglen and Cambuslang area through a pilot collaboration between a Local Policing Team mentor, the third sector and Scottish Prison Service throughcare officers. 92% of the young people who engaged on the course reported an improved perception of the police and their outlook on release.

The role of the PCLO has also expanded into the adult prison estate where needs are assessed on an individual basis. By strengthening the collaborative links between the police, relevant third sector organisations and the prison service via throughcare, our ability to divert those on the cusp of SOC has increased significantly.

Cyber awareness

Cyber Badge - Police Scotland and Scottish Universities have collaborated to create the Cyber Badge. This is a 12-week course on cyber security focusing on password security, online bullying, grooming, computer crime and social networking as well as an introduction to computer science. The course is innovative in its use of homework to encourage participants to raise these issues with parents and grandparents.

CashBack for Communities

Using Celtic Football Club as a hook to spark young people's interest, and working with APEX Scotland, the Celtic Foundation offer an employability and personal development programme for young people; focusing particularly on those who may be at high risk of offending or re-offending. Funded by CashBack, the Gateway to Employment programme aims to develop the participant's physical fitness as well as their confidence and self-esteem, helping to lead to positive destinations.

The foundation initially takes time to build a good relationship with participants before addressing the challenges they face. One participant was referred to the programme in early 2016 by their prison support worker. Over the 10-week programme, the participant clearly demonstrated a willingness to change the direction of their life and secure employment for the first time. After successfully completing the programme, the participant gained employment through Community Jobs Scotland.

Tayside Intensive Support Service ( TISS)

TISS is a project designed to rehabilitate prolific offenders identified as having issues such as drug addiction or mental health problems who may benefit from targeted support. The support is designed to re-integrate the offender into society and help stabilise an otherwise chaotic lifestyle.

One offender, with a history of substance misuse, was referred to TISS and agreed to engage with the service. Over an 18-month period the offender received intensive support, including counselling, to address his substance misuse and identified mental health problems.

Working with a range of agencies, including the third sector, the offender has since stopped offending and enrolled into a college course.


Deter serious organised crime groups ( SOCGs) by supporting private, public and third sector organisations to protect themselves and each other

Robert Steenson, Assistant Chief Executive at North Lanarkshire Council, leads on work to deter SOCGs, by supporting private, public and third sector organisations to protect themselves and each other.

Law enforcement and partner agencies across Scotland now work together to defend organisations and communities from infiltration by SOCGs, and to help them to develop their own defence measures.

Activity supporting the Deter strand includes: The Real McCoy Event

On Friday 27 May 2016 George Square in Glasgow was filled with fake branded clothes, DVD box sets and a host of other illicit goods as part of 'The Real McCoy' event hosted by the Scottish Business Resilience Centre and partner agencies, including Interpol, Intellectual Property Office, US Homeland Security, Trading Standards and Police Scotland. The dangers of fake goods were explained to the public whilst the methods used to combat the problem of illicit trade were discussed at a conference held in the City Chambers.

Substantial public and media attention highlighted that there is no quick fix to what is a continuing battle against counterfeit goods. The conference identified that much of the illicit activity that has taken place over the past 20 years has been enabled by the growth of the internet which is now the single biggest challenge in combating the problem. Speakers and delegates alike agreed that what is needed is more investment in people, knowledge and skills, as well as a greater provision of resources to help ensure that there remains sufficient capability and capacity to tackle the online threat posed by criminals.

The internet has provided the best possible opportunity, not just for illicit traders, but for those wanting to download ransomware or who want to make money out of freezing files, assets and stealing data. The Real McCoy event was successful in raising awareness of these issues while educating consumers and delegates who were inspired to think about what they must do to ensure internet security.

On display were examples of fake designer clothing and footwear with descriptions of how those selling them manage to bring them into the country from China, India and elsewhere. In most cases they arrive in the UK unbranded to suit the target market, before being finished off in sweatshops staffed by illegal immigrants, students who cannot work and children who are forced into it. This sad reality provided an opportunity for children in Scotland to learn about the consequences of illicit goods, with many providing anti-counterfeit illustrations in support of the event.

Cyber Security Breakfasts

Meetings are held throughout Scotland to advise on how companies can improve resilience and mitigate threats and ensure they are aware of the latest cyber threats. The events are organised by Police Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance and the Scottish Government in partnership with the Scottish Business Resilience Centre ( SBRC).

Cyber Security Audits

SBRC offers security audits to organisations where their Ethical Hacking Consultants test various aspects of an organisation's network to identify and resolve vulnerabilities. Larger companies such as banks provide a more rewarding target for hackers although small and medium sized companies can offer a more lucrative target.

A recent audit involved the testing of a small financial institution which had never before engaged in a security audit.

At the start of the audit, time was spent clarifying what the audit would entail and the types of vulnerabilities to be tested for. Their website was designed and entirely outsourced to a third-party, and a primary request from the client was to find out if the third-party was providing the level of computer security that they had promised.

A Remote Test was carried out which investigated their website and other web-based applications. A variety of techniques were employed to simulate a remote hacker attacking their external network.

Two vulnerabilities were discovered in the system, and brought to the attention of the company. One of these could have allowed a malicious hacker to read usernames and passwords if they had logged on to the vulnerable page, compromising their accounts.

Once the company had implemented the recommendations, a satisfactory standard of security was established.

Scotland Excel

In developing frameworks on Recyclable and Residual Waste and Security, Scotland Excel has developed strong relationships with Police Scotland and other enforcement agencies. This has led to Scotland Excel working more closely with SEPA on a number of frameworks including the forthcoming Treatment of Organic Waste.

As part of the Recyclable and Residual Waste Framework, additional specific questions within the tender were included requiring bidders to declare any convictions, sanctions or recommendations made in relation to licence breaches. Scotland Excel has the authority to remove a provider from the Framework if they have been found to have submitted inaccurate information.

The Security Framework developed by Scotland Excel in collaboration with Police Scotland and the Security Industry Authority ( SIA), focused on ensuring that all contractors were registered on the SIA's Approved Contractor Scheme and that the SIA and Police Scotland screened potential bidders at the pre-qualification stage. All bidders are also required to sign a 'Non-Involvement Declaration'.


Identify, Detect and prosecute those involved in serious organised crime ( SOC)

Police Scotland's Deputy Chief Constable for Crime and Operational Support leads a range of stakeholders, including HMRC, National Crime Agency and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to identify, detect and prosecute those involved in SOC. The multi-agency approach to the Detect strand is all about working together to take tough action against SOCGs and improve our understanding of how SOCGs operate. Examples of this work include:

  • The detection and arrest of serious organised criminals - removing them from society and placing them before the courts to face justice.
  • Identifying and mitigating the risks SOC can bring to communities.
  • Identifying and developing effective enforcement action to reduce the harm caused to Scotland's communities

Since the refresh of Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Strategy in June 2015, Police Scotland and other agencies have arrested nearly 3000 individuals known to be involved in SOC for offences ranging from fraud to supplying harmful drugs such as heroin and cocaine; to those who have exploited some of the most vulnerable people in our society through human trafficking.

Activity supporting the Detect strand includes:

International cooperation

Over the course of 18 months, law enforcement targeted one of the most harmful SOCGs in Scotland, involved in the large-scale supply of cocaine and heroin. Using violence, and with access to firearms, this SOCG presented a significant threat to the safety and wellbeing of communities in Scotland.

As this SOCG operated across Europe, joint working and close cooperation was required involving Police Scotland, the National Crime Agency, Metropolitan Police Service, Spanish National Police, Dutch National Police, Europol and HMRC.

This approach enabled concerted action to be taken against the members of the SOCG, including the arrest of its leader in Holland on a European Arrest Warrant. The investigation culminated in December 2015 with the leader of the crime group being sentenced to 11 years imprisonment after pleading guilty to directing SOC.

The results from this international operation led by Police Scotland included:

  • 42 individuals linked to the SOCG arrested and prison sentences totalling 146 years handed out to the leader and key members of the crime group.
  • Over £9 million worth of controlled drugs seized along with nearly £200,000 in cash.
  • 10 firearms and ammunition seized.

The investigation dismantled the criminal network the SOCG relied on and significantly reduced the harm it inflicted on Scottish communities.

Capture of the MV Hamal

In April 2015 the MV Hamal, an ocean-going tug, was intercepted in the North Sea after a tip-off by the French intelligence services. Investigators recovered more than three tonnes of cocaine carefully hidden in a specially-constructed compartment within the ship, and coded messages were deciphered that indicated it had been on its way from Guyana to a rendezvous off the coast of Denmark.

The cocaine had a potential street value of more than £500 million, and its recovery has dealt a significant blow to an international drug smuggling operation, not only disrupting their business but keeping a huge volume of drugs off the streets. The Captain and First Officer were later sentenced to over 40 years' imprisonment.

Improving our understanding of serious organised crime

The main focus of SOCGs is to make money - the criminality involved acts as the mechanism to achieve this. In response to this, over the past year we have increased our understanding of the criminal business networks that SOCGs in Scotland use to generate their cash flows through Project Jackal. This increased understanding contributes to each strand of Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Strategy - from identifying criminal assets and cash flows for recovery, to assessing criminal competitive advantages over legitimate business, and developing effective deterrents to address these. We have worked closely with the business community and financial institutions to reinforce the benefits of this work. These benefits have been recognised at an international level as a potential model to be developed on a wider scale throughout Europe.

Project Jackal contributed to the successful conviction of the head of a SOCG involved in the organised trafficking of females for prostitution across the central belt of Scotland. A key aspect of Police Scotland's investigation focused on the factors that this criminal 'business' depended on, including tenancy agreements linked to rented flats; documentation and payments linked to adult websites; and the use of bank accounts used to launder over £150,000 in profit from trafficking and sexual exploitation.

In October 2015, the head of this SOCG pled guilty to arranging and facilitating the movement of women for prostitution and transferring criminal property. He received a three year sentence and is the subject of a criminal confiscation order.

Drugs gang run from Spain dismantled

Two men were sentenced to a total of over 13 years' imprisonment after they pled guilty to their role in the management and operation of one the UK's largest illegal drugs business, striking a sizable blow to the illicit drugs market in Scotland.

One of the men operated the drugs distribution network from his home in Spain, mistakenly believing that his location and use of technology would protect him from being identified by the Scottish authorities. He directed his couriers and enforcers in Scotland from Spain as they traded in drugs worth six-figure sums.

The SOCG was systematically targeted by law enforcement and significantly disrupted, with criminal proceedings still ongoing against some of the members. Over £5 million of heroin was recovered and taken off the streets, and efforts continue to reclaim the criminal profits in order to put them back into the public purse and benefit the people of Scotland.


Disrupt serious organised crime groups ( SOCGs)

The Crown Office's Deputy Crown Agent for Serious Casework leads on disrupting SOCGs.

Our multi-agency approach concentrates on targeted activity to disrupt lifestyles, businesses and criminality associated with SOC. This includes seizing cash and assets from criminals through the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and working with local authorities to ensure that we do as much as we can to stop SOCGs from accessing public funds.

Since the refresh of Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Strategy we have made significant inroads to ensure that SOCGs do not benefit from their criminality, by taking away their ill-gotten gains using the Proceeds of Crime Act ( POCA) 2002 and giving that money to communities throughout Scotland. The total taken in 2015/16 was £8.9 million, while over £100 million has now been recouped since the Act came into force.

New legislation has also significantly strengthened our ability to disrupt those involved in SOC. For the first time Serious Crime Prevention Orders ( SCPOs) are available for use in Scotland. These are civil court orders designed to help those either convicted or known to be significantly involved in SOC, from re-offending. The Court, on application, can order measures to be put in place where an individual can be prevented from participating in activity that has the potential to lead them back into a criminal lifestyle. Introduced earlier this year, Scotland now has the legal framework to help those involved in SOC to live a different kind of life, free from crime.

Activity supporting the Disrupt strand includes: Denying SOCGs access to licences

SOCGs aim to use a variety of methods to try and conceal their criminal activities; one way of doing this is to try and legitimise their criminality through what appear to be legitimate or conventional businesses.

Over the past year Police Scotland, in collaboration with local authorities, have been developing and testing ways of sharing information which includes the use of intelligence in the form of Intelligence Assessment Disclosures ( IADs). By exploring new ways of sharing information, within the existing legal parameters and enhancing an administrative approach to tackling SOC, we can support Licensing Boards and Committees to ensure that SOCGs are no longer able to secure licences through which they can perpetuate their criminal activities.

Private Security Industry

The Private Security Industry in Scotland has historically been exploited by SOC. The Security Industry Authority ( SIA), supported by partners, investigated a SOCG over a period of two years. The tactical approach included the use of partner resources from Police Scotland, HMRC and Immigration Enforcement, sharing intelligence and focusing on significant security contracts in Scotland.

The long-term operation resulted in two convictions under the Private Security Industry Act 2001. One individual received a fine of £3,600 and costs of £12,000. Two businesses were liquidated, removing their ability to launder money for the SOCG with a third business removed from the Approved Contractor Scheme ( ACS). Information was shared with HMRC linking one SOCG member to a significant history of businesses that had defaulted on payments of £2.8 million in revenue over a number of years. The operation led to a total loss of income to the SOCG in excess of £400,000, including £104,000 from the leader. In addition, the transfer of contracts to a legitimate ACS business resulted in improved standards of service delivery and working conditions for employees.

Multi-agency Disruption of SOCGs

As part of a wider investigation by Police Scotland, HMRC, Environmental Health, SFRS and the Home Office, an investigation was carried out into a SOCG involved in the human trafficking of Vietnamese nationals which was integral to the group's other activities, in particular cannabis cultivations and nail bars. A number of multi-agency days of action resulted in numerous arrests for immigration offences, and the rescue of nine potential victims of human trafficking from 23 nail bars across the central belt of Scotland. Civil penalty notices totalling over £700,000 were issued to the businesses. Six individuals were also charged with offences including conspiracy to produce cannabis, human trafficking and slavery.

Another multi-agency investigation aimed to disrupt a network of individuals involved in the illegal sharing of television broadcasts. Eleven premises were searched under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 across four policing divisions, broadcasting equipment was seized and cannabis plants were also recovered. Industry experts estimated that the cost to the industry from the illegal sharing of television broadcasts was in the region of £200,000 per week.

Gold Krugerrands sold off for community projects

A piece of Scottish legal history was made in March 2016, when the Civil Recovery Unit secured the forfeiture and sale of 19 Krugerrands, South African gold coins (each coin contains one Troy ounce of pure gold).

The coins had been seized in February 2012, when a woman was seen driving erratically on the A82 near Dumbarton. Police officers tried to stop the woman's car but she fled and was only brought to a halt after a high-speed car chase. When the car was searched, police officers found bags of cash and a substantial amount of gold and jewellery. Forfeiture of the cash, gold and jewellery was later granted on the basis of the woman's partner's alleged involvement in drug dealing and money laundering.

The Krugerrands sold for over £16,000, while the rest of the gold and jewellery sold for £65,000. The funds were provided to the Scottish Government for use in community projects across Scotland.

VAT fraudster stripped of assets

In April 2016, the Civil Recovery Unit secured dozens of assets from Ronnie Decker and his family, on the basis that they had been obtained by means of an extensive and complex VAT fraud.

The investigation was truly global - the 77 assets, totalling approximately £3 million in value, included houses, flats, land, jewellery, cash, bank accounts, investment policies and a pension plan, and were held across various countries including Hong Kong, France, Antigua and Luxembourg. The investigation also involved the assistance of authorities in Switzerland, Cyprus and Greece.

The assets are now in the process of being seized and sold off for the benefit of the people of Scotland.