Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office


Would the Proceeds of Crime Act allow the Government to act in a case like Abacha?

  A difficulty with the Abacha case was that, under current legislation, restraint can only be sought around the time of commencement of proceedings. The Proceeds of Crime Act will tighten this anomaly so that this point is brought forward to the commencement of a criminal investigation abroad.

Would the Act allow the Government to act against Babangida?

  In relation to a criminal act committed abroad, the Act will enable the UK to freeze assets on behalf of foreign States with a view to enforcing their confiscation orders. The UK will not be able to act unilaterally, unless there is a suggestion that there has been an offence committed within UK jurisdiction. If it is alleged that funds in the UK are the product of, for example, foreign corruption, then a money laundering offence may have taken place in this country and that may enable us to freeze the assets on our own initiative.

Would it allow us to act against Mugabe if he had a bank account in the UK?

  As explained above, the UK could only act if it is suspected that an offence has taken place in the UK, or if it receives a request from an overseas government. The mere presence of funds belonging to Robert Mugabe would not in itself justify action, unless there was some other associated condition.

  As I explained to the committee on the 16th July, an EU asset freeze has been imposed on 20 members of ZANU PF, including Robert Mugabe, which allows us to freeze bank accounts. We have frozen the accounts of those people on the list who had them in the UK. The EU list has since been extended to another 52 individuals, but this is under entirely separate powers from the proceeds of crime legislation.


  Is it your understanding that the Act gives the British Government greater power to follow up leads which are given by commercial banks on money which we would accept has been obtained corruptly by a leader or politician?

  Yes. The Act contains a range of new powers such as monitoring orders, which will apply across the board to the proceeds of all offences including corruption.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

29 August 2002

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