Jersey seizes £59m of criminal assets in a decade

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Staff from Jersey and the US Department of Homeland SecurityImage source, Jersey Law Officers’ Department
Image caption,
US and Jersey authorities celebrate the seizure of a convicted US drug dealer's assets, shared between the two jurisdictions

Assets totalling nearly £59m have been confiscated from criminals connected to Jersey over a 10-year period, figures obtained by the BBC show.

A transparency campaigner said the return was "relatively modest" for an island "vulnerable" to money laundering.

Island authorities believe the amount demonstrates financial crime is being fought effectively.

The information, obtained via a Freedom of Information request, shows in the 10 years to 2016, £58.8m of criminal money connected to Jersey was confiscated by authorities.

It was seized by island and international law enforcement agencies, with a proportion being re-invested to tackle crime on the island.

'Vulnerable to abuse'

John Christensen, a former Jersey government advisor turned campaigner, says law enforcement agencies struggle to deal with complex money laundering operations using multiple "secrecy jurisdictions".

Earlier this month the Paradise Papers revealed Apple used Jersey to legally reduce its tax bill.

Mr Christensen described the island as "vulnerable to abuse" partly because of its proximity to London, a target destination for the proceeds of crime.

"These complex structures are generally used to deter law enforcement agencies from pursuing expensive and time-consuming investigations," he said.

He hoped Jersey would adopt additional measures to curtail financial secrecy, including a public registry detailing business owners.

Image source, States of Jersey
Image caption,
Jersey's Chief Minister Ian Gorst discusses the repatriation of funds with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

The bulk of the £58.8m comes from asset sharing agreements, where Jersey authorities have worked with countries such as the US, Nigeria and Kenya to pursue the proceeds of crime, often hidden in complex financial structures.

In October it was announced millions belonging to convicted US cannabis smuggler Paul Edward Hindelang was hidden in a "substantial" Jersey trust and corporate structure, with £2.8m returned to the island under an agreement with US authorities.

A spokesman for Jersey's Law Officers' Department said the figures demonstrated the effectiveness of anti-money laundering laws and "years of painstaking work".

"Jersey is no place to hide the proceeds of crime," he said.