Civil Recovery Orders

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Civil Recovery Orders are now regularly employed in serious fraud cases as an alternative to prosecution. In several recent high profile cases the SFO has settled investigations by entering into multi-million pound civil recovery agreements with large companies following allegations of corruption or other serious fraud. In a similar vein Deferred Prosecution Agreements also offer another a diversion from criminal proceedings and an additional weapon in the prosecution’s armoury.

Civil recovery proceedings arise where the state brings a case in the civil courts for the recovery of property held by individuals who it alleges have obtained that property from crime. This power is often used after a defendant has been acquitted in a criminal trial. The defendant may find that the state then applies for a property freezing order or an interim receivership order while civil proceedings are under way.

Civil recovery trials differ from criminal trials in several respects – there is no jury, a lower burden of proof, relaxed laws of evidence and no need for the state to identify any specific criminal conduct as long as there is no identifiable lawful source for the property. Civil recovery cases that are disputed can be resolved either by the High Court or in arbitration and are subject to the civil limitation periods.

Law enforcement agencies can seek recovery of any property that can be traced to an individual, including property that may have passed into the hands of third parties such as family members, friends or spouses. They have the right to challenge or vary a freezing order if they have an interest in the property or to ask for their living expenses to be met while proceedings are underway.


If you require legal advice in connection with civil recovery or cash seizure proceedings please contact our offices.