Will fighting crime be a Brexit casualty?

Posted: 10th October 2016

ConfidentialThe Government will need to be careful to ensure that Europe-wide cooperation in fighting organised crime does not become a casualty of Brexit. One novel case in which working in harmony with a fellow EU member state was crucial concerned alleged money laundering on a grand scale in the South of France.

A French national was facing prosecution in France in relation to a very large sum of money generated by the disposal of an estate in Provence. He was, amongst other things, accused of corporate fraud and laundering profits of organised crime, and had been issued with a restraining order freezing his assets. At the behest of French prosecutors, that order was registered in England under the Criminal Justice and Data Protection (Protocol No. 36) Regulations 2014.

In the first case of its kind, the man challenged the registration, which effectively extended the freezing order to his UK assets, before the Court of Appeal on the basis that it breached the principle of French law which roughly equates to the English rule against double jeopardy. His lawyers pointed out that allegations against him had also been investigated by the Swiss authorities but that the case against him there had been abandoned in circumstances which amounted to a formal acquittal.

In rejecting his complaints, however, the Court noted that the subject matter of the investigations in France and Switzerland were clearly different. The man’s plea that the registration breached his human right to freely enjoy his private property was also rejected as not realistically arguable.