Frozen Bank Accounts and Suspicious Activity Reports
The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 places positive obligations on the regulated sector to disclose the existence of suspicious transactions to the National Crime Agency ('NCA'). Such activity is disclosed via Suspicious Activity Reports ('SAR's). In practical terms, this means a transaction may be delayed (e.g. a bank account frozen/inhibited) whilst the matter is investigated by NCA. As notifying an individual or corporation of the fact an SAR has been made is an offence in its own right, one can be left in the dark and often without access to funds or redress.
This can cause significant inconvenience and/or disruption to individuals and businesses and may call for a robust response. In most instances a SAR will be cleared by the NCA, but in some cases it is the precursor to a criminal investigation or an application for an Account Freezing Order or a Restraint Order. Brett Wilson LLP is almost uniquely placed to advise and represent individuals and businesses on these matters and the interplay between criminal and civil proceedings.
Why has my bank account been frozen?
It is likely that the bank has made (or is considering making) a SAR to the NCA. The Bank is seeking consent to process transactions through your account. The SAR is normally triggered by an unusual transaction, which will typically be picked up by a computer algorithm. This might be where the transaction involves an unusually large sum of money or there are potential concerns over the source of the money.
Why won’t the Bank talk to me or provide me with an explanation?
The bank is prevented by law from disclosing the fact that it has made a SAR. It is common for affected customers to feel as if they are being passed from pillar to post.
Is there anything I can do?
You can review transactions on your bank account in order to identify any transaction out of the ordinary that might have triggered suspicion. If for example, you have received funds for a deposit to be transferred for the purchase of a home then it may be that your lawyers can speed matters up by explaining this to the bank. You should keep a documented record of your communications with the bank (including a note of all phone calls) and retain paperwork relating to relevant transactions.
How long can a bank freeze your account for suspicious activity?
It is most likely to be resolved within a couple of weeks. However, if the NCA are investigating you may not hear anything for up to 42 days. After the expiry of that period the Bank must normally release the bank account unless there is a court order.
What if the Bank still won’t release the funds?
If the moratorium period has expired then the Bank may be acting unlawfully in continuing to deny you access to your funds. You should consult with solicitors about the instigation of proceedings to recover your money.
Case Study/Briefing Note
Why instruct Brett Wilson LLP?
We have very extensive experience in dealing with litigation which arises out of frozen bank accounts both in terms of civil claims against the banks and court orders obtained under Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. We can give you practical advice from the outset to assist you when your bank account is under investigation.
How do I Instruct Brett Wilson LLP?
You should contact one of our team to discuss your case and arrange a preliminary consultation. At the consultation we will give you advice about your bank account, talk through the relevant practical and legal issues, and set out your options. We will review relevant documentation ahead of the consultation. The consultation will help you understand your position and allow you to make an informed decision about what action, if any, to take. We will provide you with details of our fee structure.
Consultations take place in our London offices or by Skype/telephone. We can also travel to you.
To request a consultation please send us an email, complete our online enquiry form or call us on 020 3811 2829. If emailing or using the online form, please provide a short outline of your situation.
Details of the cost of a consultation will be provided following your enquiry.