Surrey Police says it has successfully hit criminals where it hurts by recovering more than £1 million in assets in the last financial year.

The Force said it has recovered the assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA).

POCA was used to recover assets totalling £1,221,386 through 55 confiscation orders. Of these, 42 averaged more than £23,000 each.

The Force said nearly £500,000 was paid back to victims.

POCA was designed to prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes and to enable authorities to confiscate and recover the proceeds of any criminal activity. One of the main areas Surrey Police is keen to clamp down on are offences relating to drug dealing and drug use in the county.

A Surrey Police spokeswoman said: “In accordance with the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, police will use all available powers to target convicted drug dealers and prevent them from operating in Surrey.

“If found guilty, offenders can be hit with further penalties - forfeiture of property - such as having to lose ownership of cash, drugs, smart phones, weapons or vehicles found in their possession.”

She said: “The proceeds from the sale of these items, together with any cash seized, can be retained by Surrey Police.”

A prime example of this happened in 2010, when a successful forfeiture of an Aston Martin used by a convicted drug dealer saw the pricey car seized and subsequently sold.

The spokeswoman added that last year alone there were 26 cash forfeiture orders, averaging £9,661.30.

The amount is split equally between the Home Office and Surrey Police, who use the funds for crime fighting initiatives.

Detective Inspector Andy Haslam, head of the Force's Economic Crime Unit (ECU), said: "We often have around 40 live complex investigations on the go at any one time.”

He said: "Recent successes of the department include £100,000 being confiscated and a 42-month prison sentence handed out to a suspect found guilty of a drugs and money laundering scam which involved a money lending company.

"And in another instance, over £88,000 was confiscated from a woman who was given a 30-month prison sentence for defrauding companies she worked for by duplicating her salaries.”

Other examples include nearly three years' work with the Cypriot Police, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, Thames Valley Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, resulting in a confiscation order from a man of more than £60,000. Det Insp Haslam added: "The ECU also investigates serious and complex fraud cases, corruption in public life and overseas, and other corruption allegations, including fraud and investments scams, electoral fraud, cheque and credit card fraud. "We are also dealing with an increasing amount of so-called romance scams, which are anything but romantic.

“They are, in fact, a calculated, persistent campaign of fraud, targeting vulnerable people via phone, email and brazen face-to-face contact.” The assets confiscated from criminals through POCA are shared between a central Home Office fund, receiving 50%, the Crown Prosecution Service, which receives 18.75%, the court, which receives 12.5%, and the investigating agency, such as Surrey Police, who get the remaining 18.75%.