Police forces raised more than £5 million last year by selling off a treasure chest of criminals’ loot, including flash cars, luxury yachts, light aircraft – and even guns.
But now the windfall is at the centre of a political row as demands grow to allow forces keep more of the cash they get from such sales to fund frontline policing.
Currently, half of the proceeds are handed to the Home Office, with more money going to the courts and the prosecution service. But Thames Valley’s police and crime commissioner Anthony Stansfeld said: ‘I think we should have it all.’
The Mail on Sunday has discovered the full extent of the issue, using a series of Freedom of Information requests to reveal the astonishing catalogue of items seized from crooks and sold on.
Kent Police raised a staggering £95,000 after this yacht was seized carrying more than a ton of cocaine
Last year, Thames Valley Police managed to sell one BMW M6 model (pictured) for £60,000
Meanwhile, Leicestershire Police sold a two-seater Zenair Zodiac aircraft (pictured) for £17,200
Leicestershire Police has brought in £1.5 million since 2009 from eBay sales alone, with one item, a two-seater Zenair Zodiac aircraft, fetching £17,200.
And Kent Police raised £95,000 from a luxury yacht that was seized carrying more than a ton of cocaine, with a street value of £50 million, in 2015.
In Staffordshire, police sold four BMWs, three Audis and even a stash of gold ingots – while this month, auctioneers Wilsons will be selling £7,000 worth of shotguns and semi-automatic rifles on behalf of the force.
And in Merseyside, officers offloaded six Rolex and Omega watches for £34,000. One diamond-lined Rolex sold for £16,000. They also sold more than 50 pairs of Gucci and Louboutin shoes for £4,700.
Mark Burns-Williamson, police and crime commissioner for West Yorkshire, said: ‘I want to see more of this money find its way back into local policing.
I also want to make sure that communities who suffer at the hands of a lot of this crime in the first place feel the benefits.
‘This is about equipping our police with the resources they need to take down major criminals. Cybercrime and human trafficking are growing crimes that need dedicated resources.’
Auctioneers Wilsons will be selling £7,000 worth of shotguns and semi-automatic rifles on behalf of Staffordshire Police
One diamond-lined Rolex (pictured) was sold by Merseyside Police for an eye-watering £16,000
In his region, police budgets have been slashed by £140 million since 2010 at the cost of more 2,000 jobs.
In Thames Valley, whose force last year sold £120,000 of BMWs – one M6 model was sold for £60,000 – and more than £35,000 in jewellery, Mr Stansfeld added: ‘I’ve no idea how the half that goes to the Home Office is spent but it definitely doesn’t come back to policing.’
Angus Macpherson, police and crime commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, said: ‘It seems abundantly sensible that allowing police forces to keep the full amount would offer further incentive in the fight against crime.
Merseyside Police also sold more than 50 pairs of Gucci and Louboutin shoes (pictured) for £4,700
These are an example of some of the Guicci shoes that Merseyside Police were able to sell after they were seized
Pairs of Gucci shoes (left) and Louboutin shoes (right) were also sold by the police force
‘We want to hit criminals where it hurts them most, and depriving them of the proceeds of crime does just that.’
But critics claim that handing all the money back to forces will encourage ‘policing for profit’.
Michael Levi, professor of criminology at Cardiff University, said: ‘What you don’t want is the police to distort priorities in the direction of those who have money rather than those who are bad, which might not be the same thing.’