Identity theft is a blight on society and very far from being a victimless crime. As a High Court case showed, perpetrators can expect to be pursued by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and comprehensively stripped of their ill-gotten gains.
The case concerned an overseas national who had a number of previous convictions for fraud and dishonesty-related offences. Despite having no reported legitimate income, he had built up substantial assets, including a bank balance in excess of £300,000 and three luxury Swiss watches valued at almost £200,000.
With a view to seizing those assets, the NCA sought a civil recovery order (CRO) against him under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. A similar order was also sought against his long-term partner. who held bank accounts with balances of close to £490,000 and a personalised number plate worth £15,000.
In attempting to explain the source of his wealth, the man claimed that it derived from property dealing, gambling and other activities. The Court, however, found on the evidence that his relevant assets, and those of his partner, were the product of various identity fraud and money laundering offences.
The partner, the Court ruled, must have had actual notice that funds which she received were the proceeds of crime. If she was not actively involved in money laundering, she at least dishonestly chose to turn a blind eye to the illegitimacy of those funds and thus could not be said to have received them in good faith.
The Court found that one of the watches, together with funds in one of the bank accounts, were the property of a bank which was the victim of certain specified frauds. In issuing a CRO in respect of all the other assets concerned, the Court ruled that they represented recoverable property within the meaning of the Act.