Nearly half a million seized connected to 'Bitcoin ATMs' including £358k at Luton Airport


Police in Bedfordshire have successfully confiscated and forfeited almost £2 million from criminals in 2021.

Throughout the year, the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU), which looks to use Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) legislation on behalf of Bedfordshire Police, targeted criminals and suspected illicit money to ensure no-one gains financially from crime.

Investigations led by ERSOU’s Regional Economic Crime Unit (RECU) into those convicted of crimes such as drug dealing successfully led to £971,323 in money and assets being confiscated.

The amount offenders are required to pay is based on the amount they earned through criminal means, and they are required to pay whatever that have available at the time. Investigators then continually review each case, to ensure subjects continue to repay until the full outstanding amount is satisfied.

In addition, they also used civil powers under POCA to forfeit £1,015,800 in cash and accounts where it was determined that the funds had been derived from unlawful conduct.

A further £142,984 in compensation was secured for victims who lost money through crime such as fraud.

Notable results included:

Three members of a Bedfordshire based organised crime group (OCG) responsible for a large-scale drug dealing operation were ordered to repay £424,968 in criminal gains. The trio had a total of £57,670 available at the time of the hearing.

A drug dealer found with tens of thousands of pounds and a gold bar weighing one kilogramme was ordered to pay back £177,428. His available amount was assessed to be £65,539.

Surgeon Anthony McGrath, 48, of Clarence Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire, jailed for staging a burglary and committing mortgage fraud worth nearly £1 million was ordered to repay the money he made illegally.

He had £564,518 at the time of the hearing.

A civil forfeiture of £494,002 following a series of linked cash and account seizures related to Bitcoin ATMs around the country. The single biggest seizure was £358,240, recovered at Luton Airport in March 2019.

Senior Financial Investigation Manager Paul Fitzsimmons, from ERSOU, said: “Throughout 2021 our officers and staff have yet again worked tirelessly to strip criminals of their ill-gotten gains and often their main motivating factor for committing crime in the first place.

“Across the region more than £6 million has been confiscated from criminals or forfeited under civil powers as we continue to maximise our use of POCA legislation. Victims have also had more than £800,000 returned to them in compensation, while we’ve also proactively recovered more than £2 million worth of assets on outstanding Orders.

“We’re looking forward to continuing our work in 2022, demonstrating to criminals ranging from low level fraudsters to organised crime group leaders, and everything in between, that they will be made to pay.”

Detective Superintendent Nick Skipworth, from Bedfordshire Police, said: “It’s incredibly important that criminals and those in possession of illicit money and assets are not allowed to profit from illegal activity, and we work closely with our colleagues at ERSOU to ensure that crime doesn’t pay.

“Investigations by our teams throughout the year highlight individuals who appear to be living lavish lifestyles on the back of criminality, and ERSOU’s specialist investigators are relentless in their pursuit of their ill-gotten gains.”