£8.5m booty seized

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POLICE have seized nearly £8.5 million from South Yorkshire’s criminals in the ongoing battle to stop offenders profiting from crime.

The county’s police force received just over £2.84m as their share of the pot seized by the force in the shape of cash, homes, jewellery and cars which the courts deemed to be the proceeds of crime between April 2005 and March this year.

The cash will be used by the police to invest in the fight against crime in South Yorkshire and to donate to good causes.

The Government, Crown Prosecution Service and Court Service also got a share of the £8.5m.

Between April and July this year the courts have also ordered crooks to pay back another £1.5 million, from which police expect to get a one fifth share to invest further in the fight against crime in the region and to donate to good causes.

Officers say millions of pounds of criminal profits are still tied up in other cases yet to reach court, which are also expected to be seized.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt said he was pleased with the amount recovered from crooks because offenders often “fight tooth and nail” to keep illegally-gained cash and assets.

He said many are prepared to serve time behind bars rather than give up their earnings. But he warned that even if criminals choose a prison sentence rather than giving up their cash, their money and assets could still be seized in the future if officers ever find evidence of them splashing the cash and living beyond their means.

ACC Holt said: “Villains can live with going to prison but they really really dislike having their assets and money taken.

“While they might be prepared to plead guilty and go to prison they will fight tooth and nail to protect their ill-gotten gains.”

But he said officers will monitor offenders indefinitely once they are released from jail and swoop if they find any evidence of them living beyond their means.

He added: “If they come out of prison and two years later we see them driving around in a brand new Range Rover for example, because they think we have forgotten about them, we will seize it. We never forget.”

He said criminals now rarely use banks to cash their ‘earnings’ for fear of unusual transactions being reported. Instead they try to hide it.

South Yorkshire Police use the cash awarded to the force through the courts to fund the work of the county’s economic crime unit.

They also donate money to the South Yorkshire Foundation, which gives grants to community groups and good causes.