An Account Freezing Order (AFO) is designed to freeze the bank account in question until the relevant regulator decides whether or not they have enough evidence to seek an AFO where the frozen money may be forfeited.
Under powers contained in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) the police have long been able to seize cash from person or premises where they are suspicious. A typical example is where the police undertake a search of a premises but find nothing incriminating except a sizeable amount of cash for which there appeared to be no legitimate explanation but where there was not enough evidence for a criminal charge. In those circumstances the police will invariably seek to detain the cash using civil, rather than criminal powers, under Part 5 of POCA. The maximum period of detention is 2 years and at the end of that period the police will seek to prove, to the civil standard of proof, – i.e. on the balance of probabilities, their case and, if successful the forfeiture of the cash.
The Criminal Finances Act 2017 amended POCA to extend this power to bank and Building Society accounts. Unlike cash cases however it is not uncommon for an AFO to freeze hundreds of thousands if not millions of pounds.
There is so much more that can be said about AFOs. This is a complex area and tactical considerations will apply equally with expertise, e.g. where they may be parallel criminal proceedings. If you are the subject of an AFO contact us on 0203 666 5155 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.