What are we doing to reduce the harm caused by Serious Organised Crime?
Reducing the harm caused by Serious Organised Crime requires the sustained efforts of organisations, communities and individuals working together. It requires communication, research, process-improvements, legislation and increased gathering and sharing of information and intelligence.
We have made progress in all of these areas since "Letting Our Communities Flourish" was published in 2009, but there is more to be done.
We will continue to deliver activity through the four strands: Divert, Deter, Detect and Disrupt. Each strand will make use of research, increase information-sharing and drive continuous improvement. Communication and awareness-raising will be essential within and across all four strands: sharing information with the public, businesses and public and third sector organisations is key to achieving our aim.
How the different strands of the strategy work together to reduce the harm caused by Serious Organised Crime
Cyber Security Education in schools
Cyber offers significant career opportunities in a highly paid sector. It is an expanding business sector of growing value to the Scottish economy. There will be major social and economic benefits if Scotland can develop a generation of children who are cyber security aware and know how to remain safe in the virtual world.
In school terms 1 and 2 of 2014, the Computing Department of Kyle Academy in Ayr delivered a series of modules over a 12 week period to 1st year pupils on online safety awareness, cyber security and an introduction to computing science. Police Scotland and Scottish universities had assisted in the development of this programme in order to raise awareness amongst the pupils of the threat online but also the opportunities involved in cyber as a career.
Children were taught what to do if they were the victim of online crime and who they could turn to for support or advice. The course was designed to instil cyber awareness as a life skill.
Innovatively, the children were also encouraged through homework to raise these issues with their parents and grandparents, some of whom might not be technically aware and as a consequence, vulnerable online. There was very positive feedback from parents and grandparents over what the children were able to teach them.
This programme is now being rolled out through additional regions in Scotland with a view to it being adopted nationwide.
Diversion programme for young people
Action for Children Scotland has worked in partnership with Police Scotland, Glasgow City Council Social Work Services, the Scottish Prison Service and the Scottish Government to develop a service which diverts children and young people from involvement in Serious Organised Crime.
The service takes a two-pronged approach: employing specialist peer mentors who gain the trust of the young people and using service staff to work with their families - many of whom are pro-criminal and need to be convinced to allow their young people to try another way of life. The aims of this service are to reduce offending behaviour, improve young people's physical and mental wellbeing (including reduced or stabilised substance misuse), improve relationships with families, peers and the community, and encourage the young people to access financial advice, education, and/or employment.
Action for Children Scotland believes its peer mentors are vital to the success of the service, building strong relationships with the young people and learning about their trigger points, crime patterns, physical and emotional wellbeing, and family situations. The peer mentors are all in their early 20s and were involved in Serious Organised Crime themselves from a very young age; they talk to the young people in a language they understand. The young people who use the service have grown up admiring men who have designer clothes and flashy cars, and who make a living from crime. They need alternative role models. Action for Children Scotland's peer mentors have been there, done that, and are living proof that, given the right support, they can turn their lives around.
The service provides attractive alternatives, such as leisure activities, training opportunities and work placements, to young people who often feel like they have no future. One boy who uses the service said that, at the age of 15, his life was already mapped out. This service helped him realise that there are other options.
Anti-money laundering rules and regulations have been in place for many years and the major financial institutions have robust structures in place for monitoring and reporting suspicious activity. Money laundering can also happen at the smallest financial services organisations where small, regular amounts of money can be laundered through multiple accounts in a way that is not always recognised by staff.
In consultation with the Association of British Credit Unions Limited ( ABCUL) it became apparent in 2014 that there was no formal training in place for staff and volunteers across the circa 110 credit unions in Scotland. The Scottish Business Resilience Centre ( SBRC) developed an anti-money laundering training package in collaboration with Police Scotland and ABCUL, for credit union staff to raise awareness of legislation, examples of risk exposure and processes to report suspicious transactions.
The training package has now been delivered by SBRC to approximately 70 managers, staff and volunteers from 32 credit unions.
'The ongoing support and advice we have received from SBRC has better enabled us to understand our risks, strengthen our defences and has greatly improved our resilience against current and future threats.' (Blantyre and South Lanarkshire Credit Union, November 2014)
The ambition of the SBRC is to reach a stage where every credit union and its staff in Scotland have received a minimum level of anti-money laundering training. In this way the risk of credit unions being used as a vehicle for criminal activity will be greatly reduced.
Local authority checklist
Scotland's local authorities are at the centre of community life. They provide many of society's most valued and essential day to day services and are major employers responsible for key areas including education, housing, licensing and planning. It is key that local authorities take steps to reduce risk and target harden themselves against criminality.
Falkirk Council devised an internal checklist that they could use to strengthen their processes and structures against Serious Organised Crime and the risk of corruption. The principles of this checklist have now been included in the Council's internal audit procedures, and the checklist has been shared across all local authorities in Scotland.
When an application for a taxi booking office licence was submitted in East Ayrshire, an objection was received from Police Scotland on the basis that the activity would be managed by, or carried out for, the benefit of persons who would have been refused the licence themselves. Police Scotland provided information which connected the applicant to three named persons by way of business, finance and property arrangements from which it was alleged that there was clear evidence of a controlling influence in the existing taxi business being operated by the applicant and that the influence would extend to any booking office operated in future by the applicant.
Although the applicant did not have any convictions, the three named persons had numerous convictions. One of them had been convicted on several occasions of violence and drug offences and had been sentenced on two occasions to eight years in prison. All three were also facing charges at the time of the objection arising from their involvement in the operation of a private security company.
The Local Government Licensing Panel refused the application on the basis of the Police Scotland objection. The decision was not appealed.
The activities of organised crime networks do not always involve drugs or violence, and police and prosecutors continue to work hard to identify them whatever form they take.
A large-scale investigation was launched after it was discovered that trawler skippers and onshore processing facilities in Lerwick and Peterhead were working together to falsely declare the quantity of fish that was being landed.
Their highly complex and devious methods of avoiding the legal quotas allowed them to overfish and increase their profits. This posed significant danger to the fish stocks, to the wider marine ecosystem and to hard-working fishermen trying to make an honest living in the industry.
Police and prosecutors worked closely with Marine Scotland to detect and prosecute the dozens of skippers and three onshore processing facilities involved in the fraud.
By the time the cases concluded in 2012, the crime network had been dismantled and the courts had handed out fines and confiscation orders totalling nearly £10 million.
SEPA dealt with an enquiry in 2013 in the Wishaw area where an operator, who was permitted to have 1,000 tyres on his site, had accumulated an amount far in excess of that (initial estimates were 500,000 tyres).
There were a number of risks concerning the location of the site which was close to houses, a hospital and the main national rail infrastructure. There were other concerns relating to the site not least of which was the eventual clear-up cost - around £400,000.
The enquiry, which ran for some time, took on a multi-agency approach involving Fire and Rescue, the Health Board, Police Scotland, SEPA and the local authorities.
At a recent court case an individual pled guilty to a number of environmental offences and was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment. The company involved was also charged £195,000.
In 2012, two men were stopped by police officers on the M6 in Staffordshire. An initial search of the vehicle found over £55,000 in cash.
During subsequent searches of one of the accused's properties in Edinburgh, officers recovered approximately £120,000 of cocaine, 20 kilos of heroin adulterant, £1,000 in cash and a number of fraudulent passports and identity documents.
The individual was later prosecuted in Scotland, and ultimately pled guilty to offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 with an aggravation by the connection to Serious Organised Crime, money laundering offences with an aggravation by the connection to Serious Organised Crime and charges under the Identity Documents Act 2010.
This was the first time that the Serious Organised Crime provisions under Section 29 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 had been used, which allow an offence to be marked as being connected to Serious Organised Crime. This then appears on the accused's record and can be taken into account by the judge in sentencing.
The accused was ultimately sentenced to eight years and nine months.
Operation Trust: dismantling a Serious Organised Crime Group from the bottom up
Operation Trust was a large-scale operation that ran from 2010 to 2013, aimed at tackling a Serious Organised Crime Group that spanned west and central Scotland.
The investigation revealed the business model of the crime group, with individuals assuming responsibility for finances, procurement and distribution.
The Serious Organised Crime Group was dismantled from the bottom up, meaning that as their lower-level "staff" were arrested, the bosses had to become directly involved in the preparation and dealing of drugs, making them easier to apprehend and prosecute.
The identification and use of the business model was an innovation in disrupting and systematically dismantling a Serious Organised Crime Group.
From the first arrest to the conclusion of the court cases, the operation had a huge impact on Serious Organised Crime in west and central Scotland. It led to the seizure of many millions of pounds of controlled drugs, the conviction of fifteen people, prison sentences totalling over 50 years and over £600,000 confiscated for re-investment in Scottish communities.
HMRC's criminal investigation teams work closely with partner agencies to tackle Serious Organised Crime. This joint work ranges from stopping Organised Criminals bringing illicit alcohol and tobacco into our communities to making sure that tax-evading fraudsters are punished for their crimes.
In a landmark case, HMRC and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service worked together to bring to justice a trio who stole money from the UK taxpayer and then constructed a complex web in an attempt to cover their tracks and launder their ill-gotten gains.
The complex scheme, which included fraudulent VAT repayment claims and money laundering on an industrial scale, was masterminded from Scotland's central belt and uncovered by HMRC officers. The money laundering process incorporated companies and financial institutions in the UK, Greece, Cyprus, Switzerland, the United States and the British Virgin Islands. In addition to HMRC's work, the Crown Office's Economic Crime Unit also gathered evidence that led to the eventual convictions.
The investigation culminated in a court case in which the main fraudster's accountant and solicitor were found guilty of money laundering and jailed for a total of six and a half years. Although the main fraudster pled guilty, he absconded before sentencing and fled to Northern Cyprus in an attempt to evade the law.
HMRC officers caught up with him 15 months later, and he was extradited back to the UK. In June 2014, he was sentenced to a further 18 months for failing to appear for his original sentencing. This was added to a sentence of 10 years for his part in laundering £11.6 million.
After his release, he will also be under a Financial Reporting Order which will allow prosecutors to check his bank accounts for criminal activity for a further 15 years. He and his accountant have also had their remaining assets confiscated and will face further sanctions should they come into further funds in future, until they have repaid the total of their illegal earnings. The confiscation case against his solicitor is ongoing.