Police set to seize £21million in gangsters’ assets

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By Rory Reynolds

LUXURY homes, flash cars and designer jewellery worth £21million are among items to be seized by police as part of a crackdown on criminal assets.

Detectives from Lothian and Borders Police have drawn up a hit list of 20 homes, many of them worth up to £300,000, as part of a campaign against organised crime.

The force are targeting around 35 serious and organised gangs by issuing financial restraining orders on crime bosses’ assets.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, police can seize the profits of drug dealing and fraud and hit gangsters in the pocket.

DCI Malcolm Graham, head of the force’s CID, said: “Whenever we are targeting organised crime groups we have a financial investigation running alongside.

“These groups account for the majority of the high-value assets identified for seizure.

Luxury cars

“We are going after the most serious criminals with the aim of putting them in jail, but we also want to ensure any assets acquired through criminal means are taken away.”

Financial restraining orders stop the owners of luxury cars and houses from selling them on, while Crown Office prosecutors build a case against gang members and dealers.

A spokesman for the Crown Office said: “It is our duty to do all we can to ensure that crime doesn’t pay.

“The National Casework Division and Civil Recovery Unit are dedicated and determined to pursue the funds and assets of those who seek to benefit from crime.

“We will continue to work with law enforcement agencies to investigate and recover cash and assets so that these can be put to good use in our communities.”

Harmful

The seized assets are invested into a range of community projects and youngsters programmes, in an attempt to reverse the harmful effects of criminal activity.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The Proceeds of Crime Act is a valuable took against crime at all levels.

“We support the police and the Crown Office in using the legislation to get at the crooks.”

Local authorities are also cracking down on criminals, with West Lothian Council leader Peter Johnston pledging to evict and ban drug dealers from being given a council.

Some 367 criminal gangs have been identified nationally, with six of the top 20 being based in the Lothians area.

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