The Government's commitment to reducing serious organised crime moves into the 21st Century with the launch of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), Home Secretary Charles Clarke announced today.
SOCA will tackle drug trafficking, organised immigration crime, money laundering and identity fraud by developing an intelligence picture of organised crime, pursuing key criminals and groups, disrupting criminal markets and attacking criminal assets to ensure they don't profit from their crimes.
SOCA officers will be able to draw on wide-ranging new powers to:
- compel individuals to answer questions in interviews with prosecutors and produce documents on demand;
- strike deals with informants and convicted offenders to turn Queen's Evidence;
- use enhanced powers of confiscation in respect of proceeds of crime investigations; and
- use Financial Reporting Orders (FBOs) which allow courts to impose obligations on people convicted of specified offences to report particulars of their financial affairs
Charles Clarke said:
"I am today sending the organised criminal underworld a clear message: be afraid. The Serious Organised Crime Agency marks a step change in our efforts to stay ahead of the game in the fight against serious organised crime. It is a powerful new law enforcement organisation which will work across operational boundaries to tackle the problem, focusing its resources on where the harms are the greatest. Drug and people trafficking will be its top priorities along with fraud and identity theft.
"Organised crime is a massive and growing problem affecting every neighbourhood in the UK. It creates huge misery for decent people, damaging our communities to the tune of over ?20 billion pounds in criminal profit - more than ?300 for every person in the country.
"Drug trafficking intelligence officers from HMRC and specialist organised immigration crime officers from the Immigration Service will work together with officers from the former National Crime Squad and National Criminal Intelligence Agency to exploit hi-tech 21st century technology and uncover the new wave of crime bosses. They will draw on new powers of search, seizure and interrogation to provide a specialised and relentless attack on organised crime, alongside existing law enforcement agencies."
Sir Stephen Lander, Chair of SOCA said:
"Making a real difference against organised crime is a major undertaking but we are ambitious for success."
Bill Hughes QPM, Director General of SOCA said:
"SOCA will combine proven techniques and new methods of investigation, intelligence gathering and intervention to prevent organised criminals from causing harm and misery to our fellow citizens and to the UK in general.
"That is why SOCA has already been working with others to start building the coalition of forces - not just with law enforcement but with others in the public and private sectors- who together will change the climate for organised crime in this country. SOCA is committed to supporting and working in partnership with all those who can make a difference."
Notes to editors
- SOCA was established in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act which received Royal Assent in April 2005.
- SOCA is chaired by Sir Stephen Lander (KCB) who was formerly (1996-2002) Director General of the Security Service (MI5). He is a member of the Regulation Board of the Law Society. He is married with a grown up daughter.
- Bill Hughes, the new Director General of SOCA, was appointed Director General of the National Crime Squad in January 2001. During that time he has led the organisation in tackling serious and organised crime. His career in the police force started in 1975 with Thames Valley Police. He rose through the ranks to become Assistant Chief Constable in West Yorkshire Police from 1991 to 1997. Mr Hughes then served as Deputy Chief Constable in Hertfordshire from 1997 to 2000 before joining the National Crime Squad. He is a member of Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), he was the Vice Chair of ACPO Crime and business-head for the Intelligence and Organised Crime Sub-Group of that Committee. He is also the UK Head of Delegation at European Police Chiefs Task Force, Chairman of the G8 Lyon Group on law enforcement and Chair of High Level Reflex (UK multi-agency response to organised immigration crime) and CIDA, the multi-agency response to drug trafficking. Mr Hughes was awarded the Queen's Police Medal in the 2001 Birthday Honours list.
- The Home Secretary announced the creation of the Serious Organised Crime Agency on 9 February 2004. Home Office press notice 058/2004 refers.
- The Home Secretary published the Government white paper 'One Step Ahead: A 21st Century Strategy to Defeat Organised Criminals' on 29 March 2004. Home Office press notice 140/2004 refers.