Police join forces to give people a chance to receive stolen goods over the internet

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The Independent Online

Police have joined the rush to sell goods over the internet by offering online auctions of stolen property.

Police have joined the rush to sell goods over the internet by offering online auctions of stolen property.

The scheme, involving 15 forces, has already generated thousands of pounds in sales of everything from jetskis to a pair of knickers. With the help of eBay, the US internet auctioneers, police have brought their stocks of stolen property to a much wider market than before, and could reap millions of pounds of profit.

A spokesman for Kent Police, the first force to join the scheme, said: "It's difficult for us to tell in exact figures how much it has helped yet, as it's early days. But every year we raise between £20,000 and £30,000 through selling recovered stolen goods, and we think the web sales have increased the figure by around three times as much."

Organisations that provide public services are obliged to sell lost property by auction after it has been held for a year. But most auctions are held locally and receive little or no publicity. They tend to be attended by the same people, who buy the goods at knockdown prices before making a considerable profit out of resale.

West Midlands Police are the latest to sign up to the project, and the force is trying it out as a nine-month pilot. Chris Willetts, corporate services project manager, said: "At any one time, we estimate we have up to half a million items in store. Only a small amountcan be identified and reunited with its owner."

Luxury villas and expensive sports cars could also soon be placed in the online sales as the Government introduces new laws to confiscate the assets of major criminals.

The forthcoming Proceeds of Crime Bill is aimed at recovering assets from criminals who have made vast amounts illegally but are no longer directly involved in law-breaking.

A High Court hearing could decide whether money came from criminal activity according to the civil burden of proof – the balance of probabilities – rather than the stricter criminal requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt.