MILLIONS of pounds have been seized from criminals in Bolton through the proceeds of crime act (POCA).

Former police officer Tony Wood, Bolton’s financial investigator, carries out financial and money laundering investigations into people who are living above and beyond their means.

POCA, which has been in force for 11 years and used by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) since 2006, is intended to help police tackle organised crime.

It gives police the power to seize cash and recover assets bought through crime proceeds, and now each division of GMP has a financial investigator.

Police say it deters criminals, disrupts crime and shows the public that crime does not reap rewards.

Mr Wood’s work involves investigating the backgrounds of criminals involved in "acquisitive" crimes such as fraud to trace any assets and find funds to repay victims or confiscate the money.

Mr Wood said: “POCA makes sure people who commit crime can’t benefit from it by having extravagant lifestyles with expensive holidays, cars and homes.

“It also prevents those people from becoming potential role models in the areas where they live.”

In Greater Manchester, £7.4 million was taken from criminals between 2011 and 2012, a further £5.4 million was removed from offenders in 2012/2013.

Some of the money is injected into community projects such as activities to help break down the barriers between children and police.

If money is seized, GMP receive half of the funds back. If cars, homes and bank accounts are forfeited, about 18 per cent of the total is returned to police.

Mr Wood said: “People who commit crime should not be able to profit when the vast majority are law abiding people.

"If people are concerned about members living in their community who are clearly living extraordinary lifestyles beyond their means we will investigate.”

High profile cases in Bolton include drug dealer Imran Mohammed Afzal, now aged 32, of Perendale Rise, Bolton, who was ordered to replay £191,000 last year.

Money was taken from funds in bank accounts, two cars and a four bedroomed detached home.

And Bolton woman Rhona Haslam, then aged 51, was ordered to repay £56,982 — the full amount she stole from her nephew’s inheritance in 2009.

Mr Wood encouraged people with information about crime to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

The total so far

  • Cash seized so far this year from Bolton criminals £825,000
  • Cash actually forfeited at the courts as being criminal cash £574,000
  • Assets removed from Bolton’s criminals this year so far £56,400
  • The total amount taken from local criminals this year so far is £630,000