Law enforcement agencies need to ‘get a grip’ to stop offenders benefiting from their crimes, according to a scathing parliamentary report showing that the state claws back only 26p out of every £100 of identified criminal proceeds.

A report published by the commons Public Accounts Committee today says that too few confiscation orders are made and not enough is being done to enforce them, allowing criminals to profit.

In 2012-13 nearly 680,000 offenders were convicted of a crime, many of which had a financial element, yet only 6,392 confiscation orders were made.

The National Fraud Authority estimates that £52bn was lost to society through fraud in 2012-13.

Departments spent £100m administering confiscation orders, confiscating a meagre £133m. In 2012-13 the authorities collected 26p in every £100 of criminal proceeds generated in that year.

The report states that £490m is owed by criminals who have served or are serving time in prison for non-payment. 
It suggests assets held by big-time criminals are frozen too late, allowing criminals to hide assets through spouses or complex financial instruments, buying houses and expensive cars and hiding them overseas.

Too often, the report says, small-time criminals are pursued while others get away. Ninety per cent of orders of less than £1,000 are enforced compared with only 18% of orders for over £1m.

PAC chair Margaret Hodge MP said: ‘Crime should not pay, but we found too many criminals who are subject to an order to confiscate the proceeds of crime choosing to spend extra time in prison rather than paying up.’

Hodge said the figures demonstrate the ‘shambles’ that exists and the ‘poor performance’ of all agencies involved who lack any ‘sense of urgency’ and have ‘little understanding’ of what works.

Information, she said, is not shared across agencies, and out-of-date systems make it difficult to communicate across government.

‘Departments need to get a grip urgently and step up their performance so that criminals stop benefiting unchallenged from the proceeds of their crimes,’ said Hodge.