By Rory Reynolds
POLICE plan to seize a staggering £10million in cash and assets from drug dealers, fraudsters and pimps in a dramatic new crackdown on organised crime.
Specialist teams have already identified the assets of 35 criminal groups through intelligence gathering over the last six months and the new strategy aims to cripple the gangs by “hitting criminals in the pocket.”
The details of £9.8million in assets have been forwarded the Crown Office to be seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Police have also identified six gangs in the Lothians area that are listed in the top 20 worst in the country, according to threat level.And the force has already arrested 34 people with “significant roles” in organised crime and taken 13kg of Class A drugs off the streets – worth £1.6million.
Police have also been given £500,000 in seized funds to recruit five officers to pursue the financial assets of known criminals.
Detective Chief Superintendent Malcolm Graham, head of CID, said that a police intelligence network would help to smash gangsters who deal in drugs, the sex trade, gunrunning and fraud.
He said: “We are launching this strategy today but the work has already begun.
“The national mapping project which was carried out earlier this year increased our knowledge of the 35 organised crime groups which were identified as impacting on our area.
“No longer will serious and organised crime be seen solely as the responsibility of CID and our law enforcement partners who operate on a national level.
“Now routinely, front-line officers will be doing their bit to disrupt and detect the activities of the serious organised crime groups.
“There is no doubt some elements of this work is specialised, but the best intelligence often comes from the officers on the street and the general public.
“The crime groups are motivated by their thirst for profit and power and use threats of violence to achieve their goals.
“The vast majority will have links to the drugs trade but in the Lothian and Borders area they are known to diversify into human trafficking, sexual exploitation, money laundering , fraud, firearms and counterfeit goods.
“Many people are unaware of the link between the things they buy, such as counterfeit goods and the dangerous criminal networks they fund.
“We will work in partnership to change attitudes and reduce the demand for drugs, counterfeit goods and other products sold by serious organised crime groups.”
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill added: “I welcome the strategy being launched today which highlights the importance of getting everyone involved in the battle against serious organised crime.
“We are committed to protecting hard-working Scots in legitimate businesses from being undermined by the proceeds of criminal gangs.”
Police are also launching an education programme to alert the public to the fact that buying fake DVDs is a prime source of income for criminal gangs.
The crackdown will also include investigating the private hire and security industry – often linked to organised crime.