Jewelry, racing cars, bitcoins, grands crus… How the State makes the goods seized by the courts profitable

Unknown to the general public, Agrasc manages and promotes goods seized and confiscated by the courts, namely through the organization of auctions whose proceeds are donated to the State coffers.

Considered sold! Château Lafite Rothschild 1982, Petrus Pomerol 1990, Romanée Conti 2000… Around 1,400 bottles representing the greatest vintages were auctioned last Saturday during an exceptional sale organized at the Palace of the Dukes of Dijon. Race results: 1.79 million euros collected for the benefit… of the State.

This was not a sale like any other. The bottles sold all came from seizures and confiscations pronounced after a police investigation. This explains the presence among the organizers of these unusual auctions of the Domain of the General Directorate of Public Finances and the agency for the management and recovery of seized and confiscated assets, also called Agrasc.

Managing and using the seized and confiscated assets to restore the state coffers is part of the role of this public institution founded in 2010. Placed under the tutelage of the Ministries of Justice and Budget, Agrasc’s mission is “to deprive offenders of their criminal” by providing “assistance to magistrates and investigators who seize assets”, explains the director of the agency, Nicolas Bessonne. “We respond to requests from the police and magistrates in all matters of confiscation. We provide them with technical support”, continues the magistrate.

Sell ​​the goods as soon as they are seized

What to do with real estate, vehicles, jewelry, luxury watches and other computers of criminals seized by justice? “If there is no one to manage them, they will be forgotten and will not be worth anything in the long run”, underlines Nicolas Bessonne.

To avoid this type of trap, Agrasc has the means to act. The agency not only has a monopoly on the management of all bank accounts seized by the courts, but also on the sales of seized assets that it can carry out, at auction or not, even before the owner’s judgment. The method may seem surprising, but it is perfectly logical: “When a police officer, judge or prosecutor impounds a criminal’s car, the process can take years. But with each passing day, the vehicle loses its value. of the guard accumulate”, illustrates Nicolas Bessonne.

Hence the possibility for Agrasc to resell the vehicle as soon as it is apprehended. In this case, the proceeds of the sale are consigned until the defendant’s trial. If the defendant is ultimately acquitted by the court, the sum is returned to him. More precisely, Agrasc reverses its debt to the exonerated party only after having assured the tax and social creditors that it has no debts. That is why of the 40 million euros that were supposed to be returned by Agrasc last year, only 30 were actually returned, the remaining 10 million were used to settle fines or unpaid debts.

Agrasc, a very profitable agency

Thanks to the proceeds from the sale of goods and the seized money, Agrasc’s account at the Caisse des dépôts et consignations has a balance of more than 1.5 billion euros. The agency, which has the motto “No one should live on their crime”, is also self-funded. If its operating budget is around 10 million euros, last year it received 11 million euros in interest from its account at the Caisse des dépôts.

Save the state budget, but not only

Conversely, in case of conviction, the judge may decide on the definitive confiscation of the seized assets. If it is a matter of customary law, the revenue from Agrasc’s sales will be allocated to the general budget of the State. In 2021, 75 million euros were donated in this regard.

When the assets were confiscated as part of a narcotics process, the proceeds from the sale of Agrasc (50 million euros in 2021) is this time directed to the MILDECA fund or “drugs” fund to reinforce material resources for specialized police officers. in the fight against trafficking or the financing of drug addiction prevention. The same logic applies to cases of procurement and trafficking in human beings, with AGRASC being responsible for a fund managed by the Ministry of Social Affairs (2 million euros in 2021) and used to support associations.

In cases of material damage, Agrasc is also responsible for compensating victims (25 million euros paid last year) through the sale of assets confiscated from the perpetrators when they are insolvent. Finally, it is also this agency that finances the protection of justice workers (relocation, change of identity, etc.) who help the authorities to locate criminals.

Prestige cars, cryptos, herds of cows…

Since its inception, Agrasc has continued to develop. Magistrates, police, public finance inspectors… In twelve years, its staff went from 12 to 64 people. Regional offices were also opened. First in Marseille and Lyon, then in Rennes and Lille last April.

With 450 million euros seized last year (against 100 million in 2011) and just over 150 million euros confiscated (and therefore donated), its activity continues to grow year after year, except for the record year of 2019 (253 million euros confiscated) marked by the confiscation of life insurance of 87 million euros in the context of the Bettencourt case.

In 2021, Agrasc sold 135 properties (about 600 confiscated on average per year) for €17.5 million. The sale of movable assets generated 13.6 million euros. Of this amount, €2.98 million was raised during an exceptional auction of seized goods organized in Bercy in November for the agency’s tenth anniversary. Among the 300 lots on offer: prestige vehicles (Lamborghini, Ferrari, Jaguar, Porsche…), jewelry, gold coins and watches (Richard Mille and Breitling) or even prestige wines (Romanée-Conti, Petrus). ..).

Agrasc agents sometimes have to deal with more original files. In January 2021, the Jura Public Ministry pronounces the seizure of a herd of 300 cows for mistreatment. Delivered to Agrasc, who first managed the transport and guard, the herd was finally sold by the agency for 58,000 euros.

Three months later, Agrasc organized its first auction of 611 bitcoins seized from criminals. All lots found buyers and 80% were sold online. The operation generated 24.7 million euros. More recently, AGRASC agents were sent to Guyana, where more than 13 kilograms of gold were seized by the Cayenne Court. There, they called in a company capable of cleaning the gold to get rid of the mercury. The loot ended up in ingots. Enough to bail out the state coffers worth more than 750,000 euros.

When criminal vehicles equip the police

Laptops, cars, drones… Instead of reselling seized and confiscated assets, Agrasc may decide to relocate them to certain state services. “In a drug case, a BMW used to go fast to bring narcotics to French territory can be seized and handed over to the police responsible for combating drug trafficking”, underlines Nicolas Bessonne.

This practice aimed at equipping police, gendarmerie rather customs with the goods confiscated from delinquents and criminals is not uncommon. A total of 1,870 items were allocated to these services, including 1,000 police vehicles.

Properties made available to associations

In 2021, a law aimed at increasing the credits allocated to official development assistance (ODA) destined for the populations of the most vulnerable countries modified the mechanism for refunding funds resulting from the confiscation of illicit gains in France. Until now, these resources were mainly donated by Agrasc to the General State Budget. From now on, they can be destined for the ODA to be redirected to the populations of foreign countries that are victims of the embezzlement of their leaders.

Another law of 8 April 2021 “improving the efficiency of local justice and criminal response” also allows associations and foundations “recognized as being of public utility” to temporarily benefit from illegitimate properties managed by Agrasc and which have been the subject of a final decision. . confiscation.

On the other hand, it is impossible for the agency to sell or cede immovable property seized but not yet confiscated, unlike movable property. Likewise, Agrasc has no power over the assets of Russian oligarchs seized since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, as it is a simple administrative freeze that does not fall within the scope of a judicial process.

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