The Proceeds of Crime Act, 2002. (POCA)

Our interpretation:

One of the basic principles behind this piece legislation relates to cases where criminality has been used to the benefit and gain of someone then it can and quite rightly should be given back to the rightful owner. Or for example, if a drug dealer has brought expensive cars and houses through that illegal activity, then the assets would be retrieved by the police and used by the police themselves.

So if we look at cases involving stolen money used to fund disordered gambling, first we have to ask where the gain has been. If for example, someone was gambling with one company over a protracted period of time by using stolen money and was regularly withdrawing sums and purchasing goods, then a POCA application could then be made to retrieve the value of those goods purchased. So what about the rest of it? Well, let’s suggest someone has stolen £400,000 from their employer over a period of time and within that period of time, they withdrew £20,000 then you would quite rightly expect a POCA order to be made to recover assets to the value of £20,000 as there is clearly some form of gain/benefit received indirectly from the stolen money (directly would mean stealing the money and spending it prior to gambling). The remaining gain/benefit surely rests with the gambling company, constituting £380,000.

Let’s consider a case recently whereby the defendant was sentenced to four years imprisonment for a theft related offence against his employer. The entire amount was gambled solely with one company. The company then come to an arrangement with the victim and pay the vast proportion of this figure back. Would it not therefore be correct to assume that the focus of any POCA order made against the defendant would be a scrutiny on the remaining sum to ascertain whether any personal gain was received from that figure (for example withdrawals to purchase goods)? However, the actual POCA application made against the defendant was for the full sum of stolen money (which we now know a large proportion of it has been paid back). Does this make sense to you? It really doesn’t make sense to us.

Offences  

17.5 Section 328 of POCA provides that a person commits an offence if they enter into or become concerned in an arrangement which they know or suspect facilitates, by whatever means, the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property by or on behalf of another person.

On the basis of suspicion- if we can ascertain a SAR was completed but the account activity remained unchanged- this would likely constitute a suspected offence being allowed to continue (if a SAR defence was granted then why?).

The penalty for conviction on indictment for an offence under sections 327, 328 or 329 of POCA is imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years, a fine, or both. In addition, POCA contains provisions for the recovery of the proceeds of crime and forfeiture can be granted, regardless of whether a conviction for any offence has been obtained or is intended to be obtained. Under certain circumstances, criminal property can be recoverable even if it is disposed of to another person.

The Gambling Act

120Conditions for suspension or revocation

(1)The conditions referred to in sections 118(1) and (2) and 119(1) are—

(a)that a licensed activity is being or has been carried on in a manner which is inconsistent with the licensing objectives,

(b)that a condition of the licence has been breached,

341Offence committed by body

(1)Subsection (2) applies where an offence under this Act is committed by a body of persons corporate or unincorporate (other than a partnership) and it is proved that the offence was committed—

(a)with the consent or connivance of an officer of the body, or

(b)as a result of the negligence of an officer of the body.

(2)The officer, as well as the body, shall be guilty of the offence.

(3)In subsection (1) a reference to an officer of a body includes a reference to—

(a)a director, manager or secretary,

(b)a person purporting to act as a director, manager or secretary, and

(c)if the affairs of the body are arranged by its members, a member.

ACCOUNTABILITY 

·       Senior management must be fully engaged in the processes for a casino operator’s assessment of risks for money laundering and terrorist financing and must be involved at every level of the decision making to develop the operator’s policies and processes to comply with the Regulations. Disregard for the legal requirements, for example, turning a blind eye to customers spending criminal proceeds, may result in criminal or regulatory action.

·       An officer of a licensed casino operator which is subject to the Regulations (that is, a director, manager, secretary, chief executive, member of the management committee, or a person purporting to act in such a capacity) who consents to, or connives in, the commission of offences under the Regulations, or where the commission of any such offence is attributable to any neglect on their part, will be individually liable for the offence.

·       Where appropriate, with regard to the size and nature of the business, a casino operator must appoint a member of its board of directors (or equivalent management body if there is no board) or of its senior management as the officer responsible for the operator’s compliance with the Regulations.

·       Under POCA and the Terrorism Act, individual employees face criminal penalties if they are involved in money laundering or terrorist financing. If they do not make an internal report to their nominated officer when necessary, they may also face criminal sanctions. It is important, therefore, that employees are made aware of their legal obligations, and are given training in how to discharge them.

Conclusion

Based on the above, it is reasonable to assume that a certain proportion of disordered gamblers have been clearly subjected to licence holders acting in a way that is contrary to two out of three of the key objectives of The Gambling Act 2005:

(a) preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime, 

(b) ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way

(c) protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.