Insights

Account Freezing Orders – The Consequences For You

Here, at MSR Solicitors we write this article to assist our existing and any new clients in relation to Account Freezing Orders (AFO). Police Officers and other law enforcement agencies are increasingly using their powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and other relevant legislation to apply to the Courts to seize funds, even when there is no prosecution, or any prosect of a criminal conviction.  

We are seeing an increase in our work representing and defending clients, especially from China, Eastern Europe and other countries, who have been issued with an Account Freezing Order (AFO). 

Our clients range from large net worth individuals, small and large business and commercial organisations to students and individuals.  

Most of our clients were never arrested or even questioned by law enforcements agencies, whereas others were arrested but never charged with any criminal offence, prior to the AFO being issued. We understand the feeling of injustice, shock, anger and disruption to your personal and working life that this causes, and we are here to help you every step of the way. 

An Account Freezing Order (AFO) can be granted if 

  • There are reasonable grounds for suspecting that money held in the account is recoverable property or is intended by any person for use in unlawful conduct. 
  • The funds are suspected to be either the proceeds of criminal conduct (allegedly committed anywhere in the world) or intended for use in unlawful conduct. 
  • The money held in an account maintained with a bank or building society is  
  1. Recoverable property or is 
  2. Intended by any person for use in unlawful conduct. 
  • The Court is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the funds in the account are the proceeds of crime or are intended for use in unlawful conduct. 

ACCOUNT FREEZING ORDER (AFO) 

As the name suggest, if the Court grants an AFO, then any funds held in your bank, building society or any other financial institution that is subject to this Order, will be frozen and you will be prohibited from making any withdrawals or payments from this account for a maximum period of 2 years. There are a certain exceptions when money can be withdrawn, for example living, business or legal expenses. You can discuss these exemptions with one of our expert criminal lawyers to see if they apply to you. 

An application for an AFO is made by an enforcement officer. An enforcement officer is either a police officer, an accredited financial investigator, officer from H.M. Revenue & Customs (HMRC) or the Serious Fraud Office. 

The enforcement officer submits an application to the Magistrates Court. Usually, the enforcement officer does not tell you of the application to freeze your account(s) in advance, as they may be concerned you will remove all the funds from the account(s). You only find out after the Court has granted the AFO that your account(s) has been frozen.  

The AFO is a civil order, despite both the application for an AFO, and the case itself, being heard in the Magistrates Court (which is a criminal court). The Courts decision will be made to the civil standard, namely “on the balance of probabilities” and not to the criminal standard (which is a higher threshold). The burden will be on you to prove the source of the money has come from legitimate means or is not to be used in unlawful conduct. The application and subsequent Orders are made against the property (the money held in the account) and not against you.  

There must be a minimum of £1,000 held in any relevant account to allow the enforcement officer to make an application for an AFO. 

WHAT CAN I DO ONCE THE COURT HAS GRANTED THE ACCOUNT FREEZING ORDER? 

You should seek independent legal advice immediately, as you will no longer be able to use your account. This may have significant consequences for you, your family and/or your company, as you will not have access to your account and the cash in it. You may not be able to pay your rent, mortgage, tuition fees or carry on trading. You may suffer reputational damage. 

You may wish to dispute the Courts decision and try to vary and/or challenge the AFO. 

  • You can apply to the Court to vary the AFO to allow any reasonable living or business expenses to be paid from the account that has just been frozen. 
  • As this is a civil matter and public funding is not available for these types of cases, you can apply to vary the AFO to allow payment of your reasonable legal expenses. 
  • You can apply to the Court and challenge the Court decision to grant the AFO. You will need to present strong evidence to the Court to persuade them to set aside the AFO. We can help in advising you and obtaining the relevant documents and evidence you will need to submit to the Court and other side. We can also represent you in Court as your advocate. 

REASONS WHY YOU NEED MSR Solicitors 

We have expert criminal lawyers who specialise in this area of law. If you have received an AFO, have a Court hearing or are concerned that your account(s) may be at risk please contact us immediately. You can speak to one of our expert lawyers who will advise you on the law, procedure and negotiate with the enforcement officers on your behalf. We will use all our experience and tactical knowledge to ensure you obtain the most favourable outcome.  

WE ARE A NATIONWIDE FIRM 

We have several offices across England and our lawyers will travel to represent you in Court.  We represent clients all over England and Wales and have offices in central London, Manchester, Luton and Leicester. 

CONTACT US 

Please contact us to discuss your case and how we can help you. We have provided a short summary of the law and procedure relation to AFO’s. We can help you in trying to get your money back and your account(s) unfrozen. For a much greater in-depth discussion call us now. 

*This article is not legal advice but provides a general overview. The specific details of your case will determine the best course of action.