IN 2013 Gwent Police seized more than half a million pounds from criminals which can now be put back into creating a safer society.

The money is seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, which is the legislation allowing for the confiscation or recovery of proceeds generated through criminal activity.

From January 1 to September 30, 2013, Gwent Police seized £628,320.05. In 2012, the total seized was £415,443.83, and in 2011 £636,144.35.

In addition to this, Gwent Police also contributed to the total seized by their Regional Asset Recovery Team (RART) which is made up of four police forces. Gwent Police’s RART contribution rocketed from £175,183.90 in 2012 to £427,063.93 in the first nine months of 2013.

The larger increase in 2013 was in part due to a case with Arben Cobo, 32, who pleaded guilty to money laundering at Newport Crown Court in January 2013, where he was sentenced to three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.

He had been pulled over by Gwent Police on the M4 motorway. A substantial amount of cash was found in his vehicle and police went on to recover and seize £400,000 from his home address in Bristol.

He appeared at Newport Crown Court in April 2013 for a confiscation order, where he was ordered to pay £16,799 – the available amount of some £70,000 from which he was alleged to have benefited.

Detective Chief Superintendent Pete Jones said: “Criminals benefit from victims of crime and some flaunt the proceeds. Using our powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize cash, cars, luxury homes and other assets not only has a great impact on criminals, but also helps us to reinvest to in projects which will help create a safer Gwent.

“We target criminals operating at every level, including the low-level criminals who are usually stealing from the communities in which they live.

“The money seized is used to strengthen our policing services; so, in a sense, money taken back from criminals is paying towards policing in our communities.

Money seized is redistributed back to the respective forces by the Home Office. In 2011, this equated to £158,274.02, in 2012 it was £109,141 and for January 2013 up to September 30 it was £411,892.

Superintendant Jones added:

“Our message to offenders is simple. Gwent Police will pursue you through both the criminal and civil courts and any assets you may have will be taken from you.”