Some of Britain’s wealthiest convicted criminals, including major fraudsters, drug dealers and money launderers, have escaped paying more than half a billion pounds in fines, according to new figures from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The staggering sum of £675m represents the combined amount that 178 convicted men and women have been ordered to pay the courts. The total figure is likely to be far higher, as the CPS data only relates to outstanding confiscation orders of more than £1m.
Most of the orders have been made under the Proceeds of Crime Act (Poca), legislation that came into effect in 2002 in an attempt to force convicted criminals to pay back money made from crime or face going back to prison.
But, according to an investigation by the Evening Standard and Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, only a fraction – 11 per cent - of the money owed has been collected.
The five biggest debtors are: VAT fraudster Emmanuel Hening, who owes £47m; Shakeel Ahmad and Syed Mubarak Ahmed, who owe £19m each, also for fraud; drug baron Khalid Malik, who owes £11m; and money launderer Noel Young, who owes £7m.
Criminals can hide their assets in a variety of ways, for example, by transferring them into the names of friends or relatives, or companies incorporated abroad. It can then take years of legal battles to establish ownership.
Former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who brought in Poca, has admitted on the Channel 4 documentary being shown tonight that the legislation has been a “total failure.”
He says: “The Act has not been implemented effectively ... We need much more joined-up thinking on policy.”
After serving their original sentence, criminals can face another jail term of up to 10 years if they do not repay the money they owe – this is known as a default sentence. However, many of the 178 debtors have not served one.
The fact that confiscation orders are not being enforced is “a real frustration”, says Mick Creedon, chief constable of Derbyshire Constabulary, and Association of Chief Police Officers lead on asset recovery.
“If the court has imposed a sentence and a default sentence in lieu of the payment not being made, there is no reason on earth that shouldn’t be served. I find that quite staggering,” he says.
But Gregor McGill, head of the CPS’s organised crime division, explains: “Criminals go to extraordinary lengths to conceal the proceeds of their crimes from the police ... The CPS is able to confiscate these assets only once the police have located them.”
He adds: “The difficulties with enforcement are not an excuse for inaction. We are overcoming these challenges and the CPS is recovering more money every year.”
Fraud squad britain’s wealthiest convicts
Crime: Money laundering
Sentenced to two years in 2006, he received a further 10 years in 2009 for failing to repay his debt and another 12 years in 2011 for running a drugs ring from his cell.
Crime: Drug offences
Jailed for 25 years in 2005 for plotting to import £7m worth of heroin to Bradford. The confiscation order followed in 2010.
Shakeel Ahmad and Syed Mubarak Ahmed
Crime: VAT Fraud; Owe: £19m each
Jailed for seven years in 2007 for masterminding a £37m tax fraud and then for an extra 10 years in 2010 for failing to repay money owed.
Crime: VAT Fraud
Jailed for 15 years in 2006 and for a further nine years in 2010 for failing to repay debt. He was transferred home to France under an extradition deal and released in 2012.