The National Crime Agency (NCA) has reported that a second-hand car salesman has agreed to forfeit a property portfolio and money worth a total of £1.14million, following a civil recovery and tax investigation into his acquisition of a portfolio of ten properties.

The settlement, following proceedings issued by the NCA in the High Court, includes five buy-to-let properties in Yorkshire, a luxury property in Spain, a property with a development opportunity comprising of a site for eight dwellings, and £249,241 cash held in a bank account.

The NCA asserted that Peter Grubisic used his car dealership and property development businesses to launder the proceeds of his unlawful conduct, and that his declared income was not sufficient to fund his property purchases and luxury lifestyle. 

What is important to note is that Mr Grubisic had not been convicted of any criminal offence. The NCA used powers under Part 5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) to pursue the civil recovery of assets said to be the proceeds of unlawful conduct. It is not necessary for a criminal investigation to have started or for any related convictions.

The NCA has to prove on the balance of probability that assets or property have been acquired through unlawful conduct. Any profits made from assets obtained through unlawful activity can also be recovered. 

The NCA can also utilise powers under Part 6 of POCA to undertake tax investigations and raise a tax demand where there is a reasonable suspicion that an individual has accrued income or gain as a result of criminal conduct. These powers are separate from those of HMRC.

There is a considerable armoury available to the NCA to recover assets and property alleged to have been acquired through unlawful conduct without having to prosecute anyone and prove their guilt to the criminal standard. Given how long it takes for complex criminal investigations to be prosecuted, to then go through the trial process and then if convictions follow, to pursue confiscation proceedings, the civil recovery route must surely be the better path for law enforcement agencies to follow.

Please do get in touch if you have any questions about civil recovery and tax investigations.