AROUND £1.6million worth of criminal cash and assets was taken out of the hands of criminals in Lancashire last year, with industry professionals saying the amount recovered is only a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared with the huge volumes of illegal money flowing through the UK.

However the staggering sum claimed back by Lancashire Police in 2018-19 was £300,000 higher than the amount on the previous period, when £1.3million was ascertained.

The figures, which have been revealed by the home office, show the cash and assets received through proceeds of crime.

Of the £1.6million, one million pounds was obtained through confiscation orders, which are made during sentencing following a criminal conviction.

The rest came from powers to seize and confiscate cash via civil proceedings.

Dominic Kavakeb, anti-corruption organisation of Global Witness, said: “These latest statistics really are a drop in the ocean compared with the billions in illicit wealth flooding the UK.

"It shows how much work there is still to do in the fight against dirty money, starting with the long-awaited property register that can bring transparency to the UK’s property market – for years a top choice for criminals and the corrupt looking to launder stolen cash.”

Around £208 million was collected by police forces, councils and government agencies across England, Wales and Northern Ireland using powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act in 2019-20 – a 4% decrease from the year before, but up 8% compared to five years ago.

The Government unveiled new measures to clamp down on corruption in 2018, including the creation of Unexplained Wealth Orders – which give authorities the power to demand a person or company explain where their cash or assets came from.

To date, the National Crime Agency has obtained UWOs on four cases with a total asset value estimated at just over £143m.

In the year to March, £208m was also frozen in more than 800 bank and building society accounts – up significantly from £95 million the year before.

The National Economic Crime centre, based at the NCA's headquarters, also launched two years ago with the aim of bringing together police and government bodies to combat economic crime, including money laundering and fraud.

An NCA spokeswoman said: “The National Crime Agency froze or seized £160m in suspected criminal assets during the last year alone, and we continue to use all of our powers, in both the criminal and civil spheres, to disrupt criminals and corrupt elites by recovering the proceeds of their criminality.”