FINANCIAL investigators netted a record haul of criminal cash and assets last year, it has been revealed.

Wiltshire Police recovered proceeds of crime worth £4.8 million, with the bulk of the dirty money, property and luxury goods handed to the county force by court order.

In fact the vast majority of the money came from a single investigation.

Six people were jailed in 2016 and 2017 for their part in one of Wiltshire’s biggest ever scams. They included Stephen Smith from Hook, who was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years' imprisonment.

The gang stole £2m-worth of equipment from BT, laundering the proceeds through companies around the world. In total, £3.8m was recovered – including £1.7m from gang leader Smith.

Earlier this year, Wiltshire Police financial investigator Andrew Stonell said: “The conspirators exploited a loophole in BT’s distribution and supply chain allowing them to steal vast quantities of equipment which were then sold through Smith’s company - Telkom International Ltd based in Royal Wootton Bassett.

“The proceeds were then laundered through a range of companies owned and controlled by various conspirators by means of false invoices and purchase orders in an attempt to create the illusion that the transactions represented legitimate trade.

“Police successfully traced laundered funds through entities in the UK and offshore including companies registered in the British Virgin Islands with bank accounts in the Isle-of-Man and Dubai.”

Home Office figures show that of the £ 4.8m seized, 99.7 per cent came from confiscation orders following conviction.

The remainder came from powers to seize cash in civil proceedings.

The haul was more than six times the value seized in 2013/14, when officers recovered £766,000.

Security minister Brandon Lewis credited the Government with “having a real impact” on stripping crooks of their “ill-gotten gains”.

He said: “This money is being ploughed back into law enforcement work and compensating victims. Last year, victims were paid £36m – which was a 27% increase on 2013-14.

“The new National Economic Crime Centre is harnessing intelligence and capabilities across the public and private sectors to bring people to justice.

“And our asset recovery action plan makes plain our ambition to improve these figures further and claw back even more dirty money.”