Frozen Account Investigations: interviews
When a frozen account investigation starts, the investigators will apply to the Magistrates’ Court for an Account Freezing Order (‘AFO’).
The Applicant, which is usually the Police, but also sometimes the SFO or HMRC, will often invite the respondent to participate in an interview as part of the frozen account investigation.
Do you have to attend such an interview?
AFO’s are civil cases but heard by the criminal courts. So, the person whose account has been frozen, known as the respondent, is not necessarily accused of doing anything criminal. (This is not always the case – some respondents may also be suspected of criminality. Each case is different, and you should get legal advice about your particular case.)
Typically, police interviews are conducted ‘under caution’. The key point is that interviews under caution are conducted where a person is suspected of criminality. An interview under caution can be conducted when a suspect has been arrested, or voluntarily (without an arrest, i.e.). A suspect in a criminal case invited to attend a voluntary interview risks arrest if they fail to attend that interview.
In AFO cases, however, the police will often invite the respondent to a voluntary interview under caution, even though the respondent is not actually accused of a crime. If you are unrepresented in the AFO proceedings, you may feel that you do not have any real choice in deciding whether to attend such an interview.
Each case is different, and you should obtain specialist legal advice before declining to attend a voluntary interview in an AFO case. However, if you are not suspected of a crime, it is unlikely the police would have grounds to arrest you for failing to attend a voluntary interview under caution in an AFO case.
If a respondent wanted the AFO set aside (terminated, in other words), then they would have to make an application to the Court. If that respondent has also refused to attend an interview, then the police would likely raise this in opposing the respondent’s set aside application. In practical terms, if a respondent is planning to apply to set aside an AFO, then attending a police interview may be wise – provided the account given in that interview is the same as that given in the application to set aside.
Our success stories
We frequently represent clients accused of crimes and / or whose accounts have been frozen by AFOs. One client with an AFO was invited to attend an interview for the investigating police officers to ask him about the source of the funds in his account. In the event, we were able to provide evidence showing the legitimacy of the funds in the account and persuade the police to make their own application to set aside the AFO before the interview even happened (saving our client time and money). Early engagement can be useful.
How we can help
If you have been asked to attend a police interview, or are the respondent to an AFO, you can contact our Crime and Regulatory department on 020 7632 4300.
We can advise you on whether you need to attend the interview, and on the merits of applying to set aside the AFO. You can also contact us if you are being investigated by the police.