SARs are lawful disclosures made to prescribed persons under POCA. SARs will usually be made to the NCA via their online system. The purpose of the SAR regime is to assist the authorities in gathering intelligence about criminal activity. That intelligence can then be used to assist the authorities to prevent, detect and prosecute crimes. Therefore, the information contained in SARs may be used by the authorities to pursue further inquiries and investigations and may ultimately lead to the prosecution of wrongdoers.
Typically a SAR will provide a short narrative on the background to the issue, explain how the relevant suspicion has arisen and, depending on the circumstances, may ask for consent to deal with criminal property. The SAR will often be made on behalf of the relevant individuals and the corporate (or corporates) involved.
In terms of procedure, once submitted, the NCA has 7 working days to respond to the SAR. If it responds, it will either give consent or require a further “moratorium period” of 31 calendar days to investigate the matter before giving or refusing consent. If the NCA does not respond within the 7 working day period (or within the 31 calendar day “moratorium period”), there is deemed consent and the relevant individuals/entities who made the SAR will have a defence if they proceed with the activities. If the NCA refuses consent, it or the police may investigate the issue and seek a restraint order preventing any dealing with the criminal property. Ultimately, they may prosecute any offences discovered.
It should be noted that the NCA may pass on information learned from SARs to the SFO or other prosecuting authorities without notice and as they deem fit. While the information contained in the SARs may be shared with other authorities, the SAR itself is confidential and will not be disclosed to persons named within it. There is also a strong presumption that SARs will not be used directly as evidence in any subsequent prosecution. Finally, the SAR will be retained by the NCA for six years or until proven not to be linked to crime.