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Training in criminal asset seizing delayed two years

Officers had not been trained to seize criminals' cash and property two years after the course was ordered, it was revealed yesterday.

While the scheme recently took place, Douglas Bain, who reviewed proceeds of crime legislation here, branded the delay a serious lapse.

"It is very regrettable that, having identified a training need two years ago, no adequate training or information on these matters had been provided by the end of the reporting year," he said.

Mr Bain also claimed it was unrealistic to expect most frontline officers to have a full understanding of their powers and duties under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Detective Chief Inspector Ian Wilson, from the economic crime unit, confirmed that there had since been training and said that more was planned.

He added: "Training in relation to the Proceeds of Crime Act has taken place since the period of the report, and a further programme of training is planned for the next 12 months.

"This is being considered against a backdrop of a reduction in budgets and our commitment to policing priorities."

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Mr Bain's intervention came as fears over fuel fraud - using the Irish border to sell laundered agricultural diesel to motorists and evade excise duty - in parts of Co Armagh continued to grow.

An Organised Crime Task Force report earlier this year said that over the past 12 months, more than 600,000 litres of illegal fuel had been seized and 27 laundering plants dismantled.

More than 5,000 drug seizure incidents and 2,800 drug-related arrests were recorded. A total of 45 potential victims of human trafficking were recovered.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said earlier this year that she intended to set up a fund to tackle crime associated with paramilitary groups following the killing of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan.

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