Detectives have seized more than £11,000 from two bank accounts set up by a Chinese student at Brighton University.
The move comes after Sussex Police obtained a court order under the Proceeds of Crime Act – often referred to as PoCA.
The force said that some of the money was likely to be spent supporting community projects and police work locally.
Sussex Police said that, after a tip-off, its Economic Crime Unit found that the two accounts had a turnover of more than £230,000, with hundreds of electronic credits.
The force said: “The account-holder had studied as a foreign student at the University in Brighton in 2017 and 2018 before returning home but did not return to the UK and did not co-operate with the investigation.
“Officers believe that the money was being used to acquire luxury goods then sent to China in contravention of international currency and export restrictions.
“The accounts were subject to an ‘account freezing order’ under section 5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act, granted by Brighton Magistrates’ Court in December 2020.
“This enabled police to conduct inquiries into the source of the funds and ensured that they were not withdrawn meanwhile.
“Under PoCA, cash and assets can be seized by law enforcement (agencies) if they believe they have been acquired through criminal activity.
“They can then either be subject of criminal proceedings or civil proceedings, as in this case, to seek forfeiture or confiscation.
“A court ‘forfeiture notice’ was sent to the account-holder in China in April 2021 for the account balances of £7,000 and £4,098.93.
“As there was no response to this, the bank is now, as required by the order, releasing the money to the police.
“The money will then be sent to central government funds. As with all such seizures 50 per cent is returned to the force and then distributed equally between the police and crime commissioner and the force to support operational work and community projects.”
Detective Constable Julian Harris said: “This case is an example of the way that law enforcement will pursue suspected criminal activity using civil law.
“Last year alone Sussex Police made cash seizures from suspected criminals of different types of more than £300,000.”
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