Benjamin Waidhofer, instructed by Naureen Shariff (senior associate) at Blackfords LLP, successfully defeated an application by HMRC to freeze a bank account holding a credit balance of just under £250,000.

The account holder was given 7 days’ notice of the application and significant preparation had been undertaken by HMRC ahead of the hearing with a comparatively short amount of time afforded to prepare any response.

Despite that advantage, following a fully contested hearing at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court before Deputy District Judge Harte which involved detailed cross-examination of HMRC’s financial investigator with thorough (competing) closing submissions, HMRC’s application for an Account Freezing Order (AFO) was swiftly refused in the course of a brief ex tempore judgment.

The Criminal Finances Act 2017 inserted sections 303Z1 – 303Z19 into the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Those provisions came into force in 2018 and are increasingly used by enforcement officers to obtain Account Freezing Orders (303Z1 – 303Z8 POCA 2002) and subsequently Forfeiture Orders (section 303Z9 – 303Z19 POCA 2002).

It is understood that very few applications for Account Freezing Orders have been successfully resisted.  The work done on a very tight timescale, in this case, demonstrates the need for anyone in receipt of an applicant for an Account Freezing Order should urgently obtain legal advice and assistance rather than acquiesce to the application in question.

Benjamin Waidhofer is frequently instructed to advise and represent both individuals and corporates under in both criminal and civil asset forfeiture proceeding.  Any queries about this matter, or any other, ought to be addressed to clerks@foundrychambers.com.