MORE than £900,000 of "suspicious cash" has been clawed back by Cumbria Police so far this year as the force continues to target the illicit profits of suspected criminals.

Much of the cash - believed to be the proceeds of drug trafficking - was intercepted as it was ferried along the M6 in Cumbria.

In the last week alone, one Carlisle court approved the forfeiture of almost £460,000, money which magistrates and a district judge believe is linked to crime. 

The forfeitures - approved under Proceeds of Crime legislation - follow a catalogue of similar legal successes, with a staggering £3.4m reclaimed by Cumbria Constabulary since April 2023. The money is ploughed back into fighting crime.

Over the last two weeks, Cumbria Police has made four successful Proceeds of Crime applications at the city's Rickergate court.

The biggest case saw what sources say was the county's biggest ever cash cash forfeiture linked to the M6 - £300,000, which officers found stashed in a car driven by a "bricklayer," who was stopped because he was speeding.

In all of the cases this week, the drivers had no credible explanation for why they were transporting such large sums of cash. Those cases include:

• The forfeiture of £200,015, seized on December 13 near to Junction 42 on a southbound section of the motorway.

• The forfeiture of £99,970, seized on October 18 last year near to Junction 40, again on the southbound side of the M6.

• The continued detention of £125,000 which was being transported southwards along the motorway between Junctions 42 and 41 on February 17.

• The continued detention of £33,000, seized on February 20 o the M6 southbound near Junction 40.

Three applications were approved by District Judge John Temperley after he heard an outline of how the money – mostly in Scottish bank notes - was seized, while the continued detention of the £125,000 was sanctioned by magistrates.

Police suspect that much of the cash is generated by or linked to cross-border drug trafficking.

The week's biggest forfeiture – the £200,015 – was triggered after police stopped a car near Southwaite Service Station because of its “excessive speed.”

The driver said he had travelled from Luton to Glasgow the previous day, but initial investigations confirmed he was lying. 

He also appeared “hesitant and nervous.” With their suspicions aroused, the officers searched the car and found two cannabis cigarettes and a cannabis grinder. A pink Slazenger holdall was also found in the car’s boot. Inside the bag was the £200,015.

The driver said he had no knowledge of what was in the bag or who owned the cash. The financial investigator in court said that he strongly suspected the money was the proceeds of crime, or intended for use in crime.

The second large cash seizure last October happened in the early evening when police became interested in a Mercedes A180, again because the driver was travelling at excessive speed.

When the car stopped, officers noticed that the driver appeared to be attempting to cover something up in the rear of the car.

The driver’s account of his journey – a claim that he dropped a cousin off at Glasgow University – was contradicted by intelligence. When the officers searched his car, they found a carrier bag containing the cash, just under £100,000.

Again, Judge Temperley said he was satisfied there were grounds to believe that the cash was connected to crime. The third cash seizure – the £33,000 – came from a VW Passat which was driven by a man wearing a high visibility jacket.

Checks confirmed that the car was not insured for business.

The driver, who appeared nervous and evasive, claimed he was on his way to see a friend in Liverpool. The officers noticed a “hive,” an internal storage compartment, in the boot.

The man claimed he knew nothing about the compartment. As a result, the officers forced it open and inside found a JD Sports bag.

The cash was inside it. Under further questioning, the man admitted collecting the money from a person in Glasgow and said he was asked to deliver it to Leeds. He refused to name any of the individuals involved.

Judge Temperley ruled that police can continue holding the cash as investigations continue.

In the earlier case, magistrates heard that police seized the £125,000 from a London based Kosovan national who was stopped because his car was “lane hogging” on the M6 between Junctions 42 and 41.

After the money was found, the man confirmed he was asked to go to Glasgow to collect the money and was taking it back to the London area, where planned to hand it over at a petrol station. He claimed he had no idea what was in the bag.

Money forfeited under Proceeds of Crime legislation is split between the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, and the Home Office.

In February, the same Carlisle court heard that a bricklayer who was stopped by the police for speeding on the M6 near Penrith had more than £300,000 cash in two bags in his car. One of the bags was "glued shut."

Magistrates approved the forfeiture of the cash.

A Cumbria Police spokeswoman said:  “We continue to tackle criminals and work hard to reclaim the money that they have gained from their crimes in order give it back to their victims or the community they’ve affected.

“From the start, their finances are being examined to establish how much they have benefitted from their criminal activity with the aim to recover their realisable assets.

“Where we come across cash and believe it to be in some way linked to crime, we have a duty to investigate. Sometimes it is obvious the cash is linked to criminality, either the proceeds of someone’s criminal activity or it is being used to fund crime....

"Crime doesn’t pay, and police will continue to work very closely with partner agencies to ensure that criminals are targeted and any financial gain they make as a result of their crimes is seized.”