The London Litigation Letter - Limited powers of recovery

10 September 2012

In a recent case, Perry and others v the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the UK Supreme Court curtailed the efforts of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) to freeze the foreign assets of a fraudster who had been convicted abroad.

The Supreme Court ruled that the English courts did not have the jurisdiction to freeze property situated outside the UK.

Although the outcome of the appeal was not unexpected, it provides welcome guidance on the ambiguous language of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. By allowing the appeal, the Supreme Court has limited the power of the UK Court to make a Civil Recovery Order over property situated in the UK. That remains so even where property located abroad has been bought with the proceeds of crimes committed in the UK by a person resident in the jurisdiction.

It does not follow that the gains or proceeds of criminal conduct situated outside the jurisdiction are completely out of reach of SOCA. However, in order to seize such property SOCA will not be able to rely upon the UK Court, but will rather have to pass on the information about the property to the relevant authorities in the country where the assets are located and request that those authorities start confiscation proceedings.