Cash-strapped criminals are losing their lavish lifestyles as asset-stripping police investigators in Avon and Somerset hit them where it hurts most – in the pocket.
Since April last year criminals have been jailed for a variety of drug, fraud and other offences and ordered to pay back more than £2m by the courts. This includes more than £330,000 which has been paid direct to victims in compensation.
The money has been recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, which allows confiscation orders to be imposed on criminals, ensuring they pay the penalty for their illegal activity, helping to bring an abrupt end to their lavish lifestyles.
It means offenders not only face a custodial sentence but also lose everything they made from their crime, so when they are released from prison they can no longer enjoy the luxury lifestyles to which they have become accustomed. This can include the seizure of luxury cars, large houses, sending their children for private education, holiday homes, as well as expensive designer jewellery and clothing.
They face a further prison term - if they do not pay the confiscation order in full and will still be required to pay the order when eventually released from prison.
The defendant is required to pay the confiscation order using all of their assets, which will mean selling cars, property, jewellery or surrendering savings or shares. In many cases, the police will have obtained orders freezing all assets, preventing the defendant from doing anything with them, other than to sell them to satisfy the confiscation order.
Avon and Somerset Police’s Financial Investigation Unit have been using all the powers available to them under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. This includes applying to the magistrates’ court to forfeit cash which is believed to have been obtained through crime even if no-one is convicted.
After any compensation is paid, the money is paid to the government and a proportion is returned to the police, Crown Prosecution Service and the courts. In Avon and Somerset the money is ploughed back into the Proceeds of Crime area to ensure we continue to tackle offending at all levels and to make sure that crime does not and will not pay.
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “The introduction of the Proceeds of Crime Act has become a key weapon for the police to tackle and disrupt organised crime. In the past few years we have invested in financial investigators, who work tirelessly to remove the criminal gains of offenders.
“I want residents to know that when a person is caught and convicted it is not the end of the process. Assets can be traced and confiscated and the money can be put to good use to benefit others, including victims. I hope the relentless pursuit by Avon and Somerset Police to disrupt criminal gains sends out a clear message to those breaking the law that crime does not pay.”
Dr Kirstie Cogram Head of Avon and Somerset Police’s Complex Crime Unit, said: “Compensation for victims remains a focus of our financial investigators, reinforced by the desire to tackle crime at all levels and to remove the negative role models of individuals living on the proceeds of crime from our communities.
“Since the Proceeds of Crime Act was introduced Avon and Somerset has worked hard to provide specialist support and advice to all areas of frontline policing operations and ensure that crime does not pay across all levels of crime.
“Criminals have a negative impact on our communities and we will continue to work hard to ensure that individuals are not allowed to live off the proceeds of crime, living in large houses, driving around in expensive cars and living luxurious lifestyles to the cost of hard working members of the public. We will also, where possible, work to ensure that victims of the crimes receive compensation,” she declared.
“We do not only go after the big fish, we will strip assets from anyone who makes money from crime. And should they have insufficient assets to repay the amount they have made from crime in full and they come into funds or assets in the future, there are powers available for additional seizures. This should send out a clear warning to those involved in illegal activity that crime does not pay,” said Dr Cogram
Among the confiscation orders imposed by the courts since April of last year are:
- A 70-year-old Gloucestershire man who ran brothels in Bristol was landed with a £310,000 confiscation order at Bristol Crown Court on 24 November last year. Philip Stubbs of Lynch Road in Berkeley, appeared for the confiscation hearing. It followed a police operation, which was set up to deal with off-street sex work. Enquiries were made into suspected brothels being run from 1 Highland Crescent in Clifton (which was trading as Panache) and 164 North Street, Bedminster (trading as From China with Love). At the confiscation hearing benefit of £310,165.67 was identified and a confiscation order for the same figure agreed.
- Convicted drug dealer Paul McNulty was required to pay a half million pound confiscation order at a hearing at Bristol Crown Court on 22 May last year. He had been convicted of supplying drugs and concealing criminal property (cash). The ambitious operation that was thwarted had intended to distribute drugs across the south west region of the UK. Drugs (a kilo) were found concealed in a children’s “Peppa Pig” plastic tea set. McNulty, who was jailed for seven years, was required to pay a confiscation order of £523,310.80, which included over £250,000 in cash seized by officers during the police operation.
- A man who set up a cannabis production area in a bedroom and loft area in his Bristol home was been served with a £10,000 confiscation order. Jason Smith, aged 44, received the order for £10,825 at Bristol Crown Court on 3 November last year. Officers had previously searched his Patchway home, cash, cannabis plants and equipment were found in the master bedroom and a concealed loft area revealed a cannabis hydroponic set-up including ventilation pipe, drying nets, lamps and transmitters. He received a six month jail sentence, suspended for two years.
- On 15 December at Bristol Crown Court Elis Kalemi (27) and Vladimir Muca (36) – both from London, received a confiscation order, totalling £7755. They had previously been stopped on the M4, near Mangotsfield and drugs seized and cash seized. As part of the investigation more than 300 plants were seized from an address in Cardiff. Both men were jailed for 18 months, Muca later served with a £1000 confiscation order and Kalemi required to pay an order for £6755.
- Seventy two-year-old Alan Hayden-Jones had a £30,000 confiscation order imposed at Bristol Crown Court on 21 April last year. He had previously been jailed for four years for the production of cannabis at his Upton Cheyney home in Bristol. More than 50 cannabis plants were seized, plus stolen quad bikes and trailers during the police operation.
Posted on Monday 19th February 2018