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Understanding Property Freezing Orders

June 15, 2024

What is a Property Freezing Order?

A Property Freezing Order (PFO) is a significant tool used by authorities in Civil Recovery Investigations under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. A PFO is issued following a successful application to the High Court by an investigating body such as the CPS, HMRC, NCA, or SFO. The PFO's primary function is to freeze assets like houses, cars, and money in bank accounts while the applicant conducts a financial investigation into the origin of these assets.

Notification and Disclosure Requirements

PFOs are typically issued ex parte (without notice), meaning the affected party often first learns of the investigation upon receiving notice of the granted PFO. In addition to freezing assets, a PFO can mandate individuals or companies to disclose financial information, including income details, tax returns, and business records. Throughout the civil recovery investigation, crucial tactical decisions must be made, as the burden lies with the investigating body to prove that the frozen assets are proceeds of crime or intended for unlawful conduct.

Challenging a Property Freezing Order

Without a Disclosure Order, there is no requirement to provide material or engage with the investigation. However, cooperating might expedite the process of discharging the PFO and unfreezing the assets. At any time, it is possible to apply to the Court to discharge the PFO.

Varying a Property Freezing Order

A PFO can be modified to permit the payment of reasonable business and living expenses. We can facilitate negotiations with the investigating body and, if necessary, apply to the court to vary the PFO, ensuring your business can meet its liabilities and continue operations during the investigation. It may also be possible to use frozen funds to cover legal fees. Our team is adept at advising and assisting on PFO variations to unfreeze necessary assets.

Expert Guidance on Property Freezing Orders

If your assets are subject to a PFO, or you have received notice of an application for a PFO, seeking expert advice promptly is crucial. Our Business Crime and Civil Recovery team, led by recognised expert James O’Hara, is equipped to navigate you through these complex proceedings.

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