AGRASC: seizing the property of offenders
THEAgency for the management and recovery of seized and confiscated assets (AGRASC), created in February 2011, has just celebrated its tenth anniversary. Each year, it takes care of confiscating and reselling thousands of goods responsible or resulting from fraudulent activities. The product of their resale is redistributed to the State or for prevention activities. Balance sheet of a public establishment with a fruitful activity.
Sports cars, apartments, planes, gold bars… The list of what Agrasc seizes each year is long. But at 98 rue de Richelieu in Paris, the Agency's headquarters, none of that: "The goods remain in the courts or with private guardians," explains Etienne Donat, in charge of communication. "We can seize everything" bank accounts, real estate, animals... "Everything is valuable and can be seized" he explains. “We have already had amazing seizures, darlings or Hello Kitty kits. This year, we seized cows.”
Goods of all kinds
Unknown to the public, Agrasc is placed under the dual supervision of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Accounts. It brings together “magistrates, court clerks, clerks, police officers, investigative gendarmes, and people from public finance. In addition to managing the seizure of goods, she also takes care of their resale.
Movable property (everything apart from buildings) can be seized and sold, via the internet or physical auctions, even before the judgment of the accused. The aim is in particular to avoid the loss of value of the objects. "The investigation time can last five to ten years, and the risk is that the seized car, which is already not worth much, loses its value when it will have cost us, in parking and in maintenance" specifies Etienne Donat. If the accused is acquitted, he can recover the amount of the property sold, under certain conditions (if he has debts to the State, for example, they are settled with the amount). Immovable property can only be put up for sale after the trial, in order to respect the right of ownership.
These operations, beyond the symbolic aspect of the seizure, allow the creation of "a virtuous circle" according to Agrasc: the amounts recovered are redistributed, in particular to the State budget, or as damages to civil parties. But in some cases, such as those involving drug trafficking for example, funds dedicated to prevention are provided. In 2019, 22,9 million euros were paid to Mildeca, the interministerial mission to fight against drugs and addictive behavior, “to finance prevention projects or campaigns.””The offender is deprived of his income and the authority of the State is reinforced since there is a redistribution.
A go fast (vehicle used to transport drugs) can be assigned to the research and intervention brigade” sums up the director of Agrasc Nicolas Bessone in an interview for Europe 1. In cases of pimping or trafficking human beings, a “procuring fund” has been set up, which then benefits prevention associations. “We paid two million euros in 2020, with which it is planned to create emergency accommodation places for people wishing to leave prostitution, and professional reintegration actions” underlines Etienne Donat.
In ten years, the activity of Agrasc has increased considerably: in 2019, the amount of confiscations pranced to more than 253 million euros, an increase of 600% compared to 2018. a better valuation of the goods sold. “We went from 11 agents in 2011 to around 2021 in 2021,” says Etienne Donat. The establishment even plans to set up local extensions in 2019: “In November XNUMX, a parliamentary report found that Agrasc is working very well.
The idea was therefore to create sixteen regional offices, even closer to the courts. Two of them, in Lyon and Marseille, will be tested from March 1st. In addition to an increase in activity, Agrasc must also deal with the emergence of new assets to be seized, the management of which is sometimes complicated: "virtual currencies are a new subject for us" underlines Etienne Donat . “This is something that was very little practiced before, and with bitcoins, considered movable property, the question of when to sell them arises. You can sell before judgment if the value is likely to depreciate, but the value of bitcoins changes all the time. »
The confiscation penalty, which is complementary to the main penalty, is increasingly pronounced: in 2019, Agrasc recorded 20 cases, or 696 more than the previous year. The result of a better organization of the “uncertain and not very homogeneous in France” confiscation sentence before 1418, but also of an increased training of magistrates, according to the establishment. The defendants are very sensitive to it: “More and more offenders are appealing not for the prison sentence, but for the sentence of confiscation. In 2010, more than 2019 restitution requests were made, i.e. 1700% more than in 54. The release of criminal property seizures also increased (2018 in 319 against 2019 in 120).