Following her conviction for fraud and money laundering, after faking her husband’s death in 2002, Anne Darwin has agreed to pay more than £591,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Mrs Darwin’s husband, John, was thought to have drowned whilst canoeing near the couple’s Teesside home. In reality, he had used a false passport to leave the UK and settle in Panama. He later attempted to pass himself off to police as an amnesia victim. The scam unravelled quickly, however, when a photo taken of the couple in Panama appeared on the Internet and the story was widely reported in the press.

In similar proceedings, the Serious Organised Crime Agency has seized the assets of a housing benefit claimant, who was the landlord of more than 40 properties, and nearly £1/4 million from a Kent man arrested in possession of £84,000 in cash and cannabis, amphetamines and a firearm.

Under UK law, the state has the right to seek to seize the assets of criminals that are the ‘proceeds of crime’. The burden of proof for such seizures is the civil (‘balance of probabilities’), not the criminal (‘beyond a reasonable doubt’) burden.