Gang-busters seize first property via civil action
A house in Newtownabbey has become the first to be seized by the National Crime Agency under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The civil recovery investigation relates to an alleged member of the vigilante republican paramilitary group Action Against Drugs (AAD).
While the owner of the rental property is not believed to be directly involved with AAD, the National Crime Agency alleged that it was believed to have been acquired using the proceeds of crime - mortgage fraud, tax evasion and money laundering.
The current tenants of the Whitewell Road property will now be forced to leave.
National Crime Agency officers, working as part of the Paramilitary Crime Task Force obtained a recovery order under the 2002 Act.
The order was made with the consent and knowledge of all parties involved.
The National Crime Agency's Billy Beattie said: "This is the first property to be recovered by the Paramilitary Crime Task Force under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
"Civil recovery and tax will play an integral role in the work of the task force.
"These powers are a strong tool in preventing those engaged in criminal activity from benefiting financially or materially from it."
The PSNI, HM Revenue & Customs and the National Crime Agency established the task force as part of the Stormont Executive's action plan on Tackling Paramilitary Activity, Criminality and Organised Crime. Detective Chief Superintendent Tim Mairs of the PSNI said: "This action demonstrates the strength of the three agencies working together as part of the Paramilitary Crime Task Force and their commitment to tackling the harm inflicted on communities by these individuals and groups."
Unlike criminal confiscation, civil recovery is not dependent on there having been a conviction and the proceedings are brought in the High Court in the form of a civil action.
The civil recovery claim focuses on the property as opposed to the person.
Whether property is recoverable or not is determined by the High Court on the civil standard of proof - namely the balance of probabilities.
In February Ray Johnston (28) was shot dead by AAD in the living room of his Poleglass home.
His shooting occurred just a few streets away from where drug dealer Joe Reilly was murdered by the republican vigilantes 16 months ago.
The group also shot dead heroin dealer Dan Murray in north Belfast in 2016.