ICO’s accredited financial investigators, along with the Department of Transport, the London Fire Marshal and the Northern Ireland Department of Economics, will now be able to conduct investigations, request restraint orders and carry out searches and seized in circumstances where they believe money has been obtained through or intended for use in criminal activity.
The legislation allows financial investigators to exercise powers that are normally granted to law enforcement officials such as police officers.
The changes were made by the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 Order 2021 (References to Financial Investigators), which will come into effect on June 28, 2021.
Laura Gillespie, data protection law expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “The introduction of this legislation is an important step for the ICO in its approach to criminal conduct. .
“Until now, the ICO has had to work in partnership with other agencies to conduct financial investigations. Considering the potential financial gain obtained through criminal activity involving personal data, it is clear that having the direct power to undertake financial investigations and ask the court to freeze any holdings will be very important. This is especially true given the increasing prevalence of ransomware attacks, ”said Gillespie.
Gillespie pointed to the recent seizure by the US Department of Justice of $ 2.3 million in cryptocurrency as an example of the type of business the ICO may now be able to undertake. The money had been paid to ransomware extortionists who allegedly represented the proceeds of a payment made to individuals in a group known as Darkside, which had targeted the oil company Colonial Pipeline.
“The ability of the ICO to directly track the proceeds of crime will be crucial in the fight against cybercrime,” said Gillespie.
The ICO requested direct powers under POCA in November 2019, opening a consultation on the proposal. He said at the time that he previously relied on assistance from partner agencies to exercise powers under POCA, but that assistance was no longer available.