The “appalling” way in which Britain’s organised crime bosses are being allowed to hold on to their illegal profits is revealed today.
New figures show that criminal “Mr Bigs” are repaying only £1 in every £6 that they owe to taxpayers.
The statistics — obtained using the Freedom of Information Act — show that major fraudsters and drugs barons are among 176 offenders who now owe nearly £700 million between them.
Others include a former public schoolboy who made millions supplying cocaine to celebrities and City workers and a rogue property developer who bought a Maserati car and a London penthouse with his unlawful profits.
Each one was ordered to hand back at least £1 million of their unlawful profits. But 40 have not paid back a penny while the average debt owed by the convicts now stands at just under £4 million each. The findings, which come despite some enforcement successes for the Crown Prosecution Service, will reinforce concerns about the effectiveness of the government’s strategy for seizing criminals’ profits.
They follow fierce criticism by the National Audit Office and the Commons Public Accounts Committee of the authorities’ failure to recover the vast sums made by the Mr Bigs of the crime world and a series of earlier disclosures by the Evening Standard about the scale of the criminals’ defiance.
Ministers have responded by introducing a new Serious Crime Bill to Parliament. It promises tougher penalties for non-payment and enhanced powers for law enforcers to seize offenders’ assets.
But MPs said today that the extent of non-payment showed that further action was still needed and expressed dismay that crime still pays for many major criminals. Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: “These figures are deeply disappointing. The current system is just not working. The public will find it incredible that we are only getting back £1 in every £6 from those who have committed criminal offences but who can afford to pay.
“The Serious Crime Bill is not tough enough and I will be tabling amendments which will ensure that a compensation order means what it says. The Mr Bigs are making a mockery of our criminal justice system. It is appalling that some of Britain’s most serious criminals are hanging onto their proceeds of crime.”
Today’s new figures are drawn from a Crown Prosecution Service list of 176 offenders who were each found by a judge to have made at least £1 million from their crime but still have outstanding debts to the taxpayer.
Between them, the criminals were given confiscation orders totalling £617 million, but have so far repaid only £103 million. That means that £514 million of their proceeds of crime remains to be recovered. Interest charges take the sum to more than £695 million.
The statistics also show that half of the unpaid confiscation orders have been outstanding for more than five years. They include 31 imposed a decade or more ago. One offender ordered by a judge in 1990 to pay £1.5 million still owes more than £1.2 million.
In a further blow, 22 offenders on today’s list, who between them owe more than £73 million, have already served extra “default” sentences for non-payment. That means that prosecutors now have few powers for seizing the outstanding money.
Five other Mr Bigs with debts totalling nearly £58 million have been deported. Another 14 are either known or believed to have absconded abroad. They owe more than £114 million.
Among the worst cases is that of fraudster Nasir Khan. He was jailed for nine years at Southwark Crown Court in 2011 over a mobile phone tax scam and later ordered to repay just under £14.2 million of his illegal profits. Much of this money was used to buy luxury properties in London, Spain and Gibraltar.
HM Revenue and Customs hailed his conviction as proof that “career criminals” who committed fraud “to fund their lavish and luxurious lifestyles” faced “serious” penalties. But he has not repaid anything.
Other offenders who have failed to repay anything include Dutch-born cocaine dealer Peter Versluis and fake medicine supplier Peter Gillespie.
Versluis was given a £3.2 million asset confiscation order in 2004 and, after being extradited back to the UK following a prison escape, now owes more than £5.5 million because of interest charges on his unpaid debt. Gillespie, 67, from Hertfordshire, was convicted at Croydon crown court in 2011 of plotting to bring two million doses of counterfeit drugs from China to the UK in a scam which prosecutors said had put patients at risk.
He was ordered to repay £5.6 million last year, but still retains all his illegal profits and now owes taxpayers nearly £5.8 million with added interest.
The largest debtors owe even greater sums. They include French fraudster Emmanuel Hening, who was let out of prison early under a deal with the authorities in Paris, despite paying none of his £40 million confiscation order. He now owes £51.5 million.
Another fraudster, Hussain Asad Chohan, 44, is also out of reach of the authorities. He is reportedly in Dubai after fleeing abroad while on bail awaiting trial.
He was ordered to repay £28.6 million after being convicted in his absence in 2006 for his part in a £200 million fraud and now owes £44.7 million because of interest charges. Tax chiefs named him two years ago as one of the country’s most wanted fugitives.
Other major debtors include fraudsters Syed Ahmed and Shakeel Ahmad, who bought properties in London and Dubai with their criminal profts and now each owe £21 million. Neither has returned a penny despite their deadline for repayment expiring nearly four years ago.
Despite such defiance, Nick Price, the chief crown prosecutor for proceeds of crime at the CPS, insisted that some success was being achieved. He said 61 other offenders, not included on today’s list of non-payers, had paid in full after being given confiscation orders of £1 million or more, bringing in just under £100 million and reducing the overall non-payment rate among the millionaire convicts to 75 per cent. Mr Price also cited other recent cases in which illicit gains had been recovered. They include one during the past year in which more than £4 million was recovered from a British fraudster living in Spain who had used “cold calling” techniques to sell worthless shares to investors.
He admitted, however, that improvements were still needed and revealed that the CPS had responded by setting up a new specialist asset recovery unit to increase the sums seized from organised criminals.
Pledging a “tireless” drive against crime bosses, Mr Price added: “Money is the lifeblood of these criminals and is used to fund further crime, so we will be thorough and dynamic in our pursuit of them.
“It’s vital that we continue to build on our existing success. Many of the criminals we face are particularly devious and go to extraordinary lengths to hide their assets. But criminals must not be allowed to profit from illegal activity and we will be working hard on behalf of the public to ensure that crime doesn’t pay.”
Three crooks who still owe millions
Julian de Vere Whiteway-Wilkinson
- Ordered to repay: £2.1 million
- Amount recovered: £262,000
THE former public schoolboy boasted of laundering “big briefcases full of cash” from supplying millions of pounds of cocaine to celebrities, music industry figures and City workers.
Julian de Vere Whiteway-Wilkinson was jailed for 12 years in 2004 and was later ordered to hand over £2.1 million profit from a £10.5 million drugs importation operation that he ran.
He told his affluent family in Devon that he was a party planner, but instead flew in drugs from overseas in a light aircraft to fund a life of excess, which was typified by his use of a house in Hoxton to film cocaine-fuelled sex romps with naked women for his friends. He drove a BMW coupé and enjoyed lavish holidays.
Police found a bag containing £200,000 in £20 notes and another holding 15kg of high-purity cocaine when they raided a former brewery on Brick Lane which he and his gang used.
A decade after his conviction, he has repaid only £262,000. With interest, his debt is now more than £3.1 million.
- Ordered to repay: £14million
- Amount recovered: £0
THE fraudster was jailed for nine years in 2011 at Southwark crown court over a £250 million VAT scam.
Tax chiefs said Khan “enjoyed the lifestyle of an international playboy”, using criminal profits to buy luxury apartments in London, Marbella and Gibraltar.
He also had a yacht and a fleet of cars, including a Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and more than a dozen Mercedes, all with personalised number plates. These assets have been “frozen” by prosecutors, but none of his £14 million debt has so far been repaid.
Khan is the former partner of Footballers’ Wives and Holby City actress Laila Rouass. The couple had a daughter, but the relationship foundered after 14 months. There is no suggestion that Ms Rouass — who appeared on Strictly Come Dancing in 2009 — was aware of any wrongdoing.
- Ordered to repay: £8.4 million
- Amount recovered: £3.6 million
THE former Twickenham property developer used his businesses to make false VAT claims of £25 million.
He bought a £1 million penthouse in Teddington and a £92,000 Maserati Quattroporte car with the profits, spent more than £80,000 on holidays, £40,000 on dental work and £36,000 on attending sporting events, as well as buying flats in Kingston and Finsbury for his children worth £850,000.
Prosecutors have obtained nearly £3.6 million of the £8.4 million criminal profit that Scarrott was ordered to repay in June 2012, but interest charges means that he still owes nearly £6.9 million.