Rahman Ravelli Solicitors

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Leading lawyer's supreme court challenge to government's power to seize assets

2 May 2011

Judges are considering their judgement in a case with potentially massive implications for the government's ability to seize people's assets by alleging criminal conduct (G v SOCA).

The case, brought by specialist Lawyer Aziz Rahman, challenges the government's ability to strip someone of their assets. At present, the government can gain a Civil Recovery Order from court to seize a person's assets, even if that person has never been convicted of the crime alleged by the government.

Mr Rahman, of the international firm Rahman Ravelli, believes that is an infringement of a person's human rights. He has gone to the Supreme Court on behalf of a married couple who have had their assets taken despite never being convicted of what the government alleges.

The Supreme Court now has to rule on whether the original High Court decision to issue a Civil Recovery Order (CRO) against the couple was valid.

Mr Rahman's legal team told the Supreme Court that it was wrong for allegations of criminal behaviour to be made and recovery orders to be issued against people without their being any proof of wrongdoing that would be strong enough to secure a criminal conviction.

The couple he represents were tried and acquitted in Portugal over a decade ago of drugs and money laundering offences. Despite this, SOCA (the Serious Organised Crime Agency) issued CRO proceedings against them in 2005 and succeeded in stripping the couple of all that they owned.

If Mr Rahman's argument is accepted by the Supreme Court, it will mean the order to recover his clients' assets will be quashed. But, more importantly, it will devastate SOCA's attempts to recover assets from anyone it believes to be criminals who have never been convicted in criminal courts.

Mr Rahman said: "When it comes to matters of alleged criminality, such as this, the standard of proof should be 'beyond reasonable doubt'. This standard has never been applied to my clients and yet they face losing everything, which must be a clear breach of a person's right to a fair trial according to Article Six of the European Court of Human Rights.

 

"They have never been convicted in any criminal court of the matters alleged against them in the asset recovery proceedings. The evidence presented against them has never been of the quality necessary to achieve a conviction and yet they still face the loss of all their assets.

"We have argued strongly against that: we believe it cannot be right for people to have everything taken from them based on little more than a suspicion.

"We very much hope that the Supreme Court will find in favour of us. Such a decision will protect the rights of my clients but also the rights of many other people who have never been convicted and yet face losing everything to SOCA."


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