Abu Hamza made liable for £1m legal aid costs

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The Independent Online

The radical cleric Abu Hamza has been made liable for more than £1m in legal aid costs for his defence at his trial on charges of inciting murder and race hate.

Lord Justice Hughes said he accepted that Abu Hamza, who is seeking to appeal against his conviction in the House of Lords, might not be able to pay, but his judgment would allow the Legal Services Commission to seize his assets.

The judge said he was making an order for the recovery of the full costs of his defence because of the "inaccurate and false information" that Abu Hamza had provided to the court about his financial interests.The order means the commission will be able to apply to seize a £220,000 house in Greenford, west London. Abu Hamza claimed his sister owned the house but the judge said he did not believe him.

Speaking via video link from prison to the Old Bailey, Abu Hamza pleaded poverty, saying he had no assets and no access to any money since his disability benefits were stopped in April 2003. He said he had been living off handouts from various family and friends. But the court heard that Abu Hamza, whose wife and six children live in a council house, was still contributing to private school fees totalling £9,000 a year. Abu Hamza was jailed for seven years in February last year for inciting murder and race hate charges.

The commission has been investigating Abu Hamza's finances since 10 February last year when the judge ordered him to disclose his financial circumstances. Investigations have centred on Abu Hamza's property dealings, including the purchase of a £220,000 house in Hicks Avenue, Greenford.

Louis Weston, for the commission, told the court that inquiries had revealed that Abu Hamza first purchased a flat in Adie Road, Hammersmith in May 2000 from the local council for £75,000. In August 2003 he transferred the property to his son, Mohammed Kamel Mostafa, who sold it a year later for £228,000. Mr Weston said the proceeds of the sale were used to buy the house in Hicks Avenue. The house was bought by Abu Hamza's sister, Ola Kamel Mostafa, who transferred control of her assets to his wife, Najat Chaffe. Abu Hamza said his sister had also been the owner of the flat in Adie Road.

Abu Hamza said the house was passed to his son when he decided he could no longer act on behalf of his sister.